Parent Letter to Elementary School Concerning Refusing NYS Assessment Tests

With TJ in the third grade, I’ve become far more interested in educating myself about implementation of the Common Core curriculum and the New York State assessment tests that come along with it. Like many other parents, I’m not happy with the way this has been pushed through. As a staunch liberal on the political spectrum, it almost pains me that the pushback against Common Core has been fueled by many conservative groups – but I’m dealing with that; this is a bipartisan issue. I made the decision to refuse the NYS assessment tests for TJ, but I am the first person in our school to bring it up. The principal requested a meeting to discuss my reasons with her, but I was not comfortable with that idea (anxiety!) so I offered to write a letter instead to convey my concerns. I wanted to post it here as a template for other parents who wish to discuss this with their schools, with whatever changes or deletions are appropriate to each situation. Other sample letters I’ve seen were too confrontational for my liking, and our school seems to be cooperative, so I wanted to be sure the tone remained civil. I am sending this letter via email so that the links will work to provide further explanation for the recipient.

The rotten apple

Dear [principal],

Thank you for your willingness to listen to my concerns regarding the New York State assessment tests. I confess that I did not know a lot about this issue before [my son] became a third grader this year, but I have done a lot of research since September, and I do not feel that the implementation of the Core Curriculum and the accompanying high stakes tests are appropriate for our children. I understand that this is not under the control of any teacher, school, or school district, and I applaud [teacher] and the rest of the educational team at [elementary school] for doing the best with this new curriculum that was handed down by New York State. I do support the idea of Common Core in theory, but not the way it has been rolled out here.

I plan on joining U.S. Representative Chris Gibson (R-21) in having [my son] refuse the NYS tests. This is not a reflection of how I feel about our school, because I believe [my son] is receiving a high quality education at [elementary school]. We will be refusing the tests to send a message to New York State that we disagree with how the curriculum was rushed into implementation without adequate review, that standardized testing should not be tied to teacher evaluations or school funding, and that there are too many privacy concerns involved with InBloom’s data collection from our students.

I remember the palpable anxiety in the room on open house night when the teachers discussed the rigorous schedule of math lessons that don’t allow any time for review if a child misses class. We’ve had nights where homework brought [my son] to tears because he just wanted to add the numbers rather than jump through the various hoops and imprecise “strategies” for estimating sums. Friends of mine across the state share similar stories of grief with their children who also used to love math. It’s not hard to agree with the allegation that the Common Core curriculum is not developmentally appropriate for our kids. I support NYSAPE’s call for Commissioner John King’s resignation in light of his testimony concerning Common Core implementation, InBloom data collection, and his unwillingess to address parent and educator concerns about New York’s high stakes testing. I also support NYSUT’s vote of no confidence for the same reasons.

What I would like to request for [child] is that [he] be allowed to read during the testing periods. If this would be too distracting for the other students in the classroom who are taking the exam, I would not be opposed to having [him] excused to the library to read during the testing periods and rejoining the class when the testing periods are over. Please let me know what you think will work best.

I believe that an official refusal letter requires my physical signature, but before I send that in, I wanted to share the text with you, adapted from a sample letter written by another parent:

Dear Administrator,

Thank you for all that you do for our school.

I am writing to respectfully inform you that my child, ______________, under my guardianship and advice, will be scored as a “refusal” – with a final score of “999” and a standard achieved code of 96, on all State testing including ELA, Math and Science as described in the 2013-2014 NYS Student Information Repository System (SIRS) Manual version 9.4 on page 63. Please note that a “refusal” is not the same as “absent,” as they are defined differently and scored with different standard achieved codes on page 63 of the SIRS Manual.  Also note that, on page 25 of the 2013 Edition School Administrator’s Manual, it is explained that “The makeup dates are to be used for administering makeup tests to students who were ‘ABSENT’ during the designated administration dates.” My child will specifically be scored as a “refusal,” not “absent,” and therefore my child will continue to receive a free and appropriate public education in his regular classroom environment during the administration of all makeup test periods as this letter provides written verification of a “refusal” for all tests.

I would ask that the school please provide an alternative activity for my child during administrative sessions of testing (not makeup tests, as my child will be in his/her regular classroom environment). However, I understand that an alternative activity is not required on the part of the school. If you are unable to provide an alternative activity for my child I would ask that you please utilize the provision of the NYS Educator Guide to the 2014 Common Core ELA (Math) Tests which, on page 9 (page 7 for Math), explains “When Students Have Completed Their Tests….that student may be permitted to read silently.” I am reserving the option of removing my child from school during the test administration session depending on the emotional anxiety state of my child on the day of refusal and whether or not the school will provide an alternate activity for my child.

Thank you very much. I look forward to a great end of the school year.

Thank you for your time and your understanding,


UPDATE: I sent the above letter to the principal and a cc to TJ’s teacher. His teacher wrote back this morning:

Thank you! I am sure this will be very helpful and I support your decision. We will touch base again closer to the testing dates.

Thanks again,


Christina Gleason (975 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I'm a multiply disabled autistic woman doing my best in this world built for abled people. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including Twitch Sings and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead.


  1. Way to go Christina. I applaud you for standing up for TJ, I only wish more parents would do so for their child/children. I have personally witnessed the unnecessary stress placed upon the children of NY State while undergoing testing. I do not know if parents realize that these tests are also administered to children in special ed classes, many who have an IQ lower then 60. This is appalling, and cruel.

  2. Grateful that we don’t have Common Core right now in North Texas. I applaud you for being such a pro-active parent with your son’s education……….and educating others. P.S. Not all conservatives are bad, I promise 😉

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