News Releases

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Senate Adopts Isakson Amendment to Inform Parents about Opting Out of Standardized Testing

Ensures parents can make informed decisions on their children’s education

WASHINGTON – By a unanimous vote of 97-0, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to the Every Child Achieves Act on Tuesday to ensure that parents have the information needed to make decisions on their child’s education by requiring schools that receive federal funding to notify parents of their rights to opt their children out of mandated testing.

Isakson’s amendment would require any local educational agency that receives federal Title I funds to notify parents of each student attending school that they may request information regarding any state or local policy, procedure, or parental right regarding participation in any mandated assessments.

During debate on the amendment, Isakson, who was chairman of the Georgia Board of Education from 1997-99, took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to support his amendment.

“Every parent has the right to know whether or not the state allows an opt-out [of standardized testing] or not. That way, if a state does not allow the ability for parents to opt their child out of testing, then it is a parent’s right as a citizen to go to the Board of Education to voice their opinion and ask for an opt-out,” said Isakson.

“In other words, we're opening the door for local control. It is time that we took the shackles off of public education and removed the Washington weight that is dragging it down. It's time for the local system to be seeing to it that they are meeting the needs of their students, that the parents know what the system is doing and have a right to inquire, and if the parent doesn't want their child to be tested according to the state’s methods and standards, they should be able to opt their child out. That is the ultimate of localization of control.”

“There is no dream that can't be realized in this country, but it has to be based on education and knowledge. It has to be based on a country and a state that relishes education and a parent that's involved with their child.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and author of the Every Child Achieves Act, joined Isakson in urging support for the opt-out amendment and praised Isakson for his work on the legislation and efforts to ensure parents have the ability to control their child’s education through the opt-out provision in the bill.

“I want to thank the senator from Georgia for his huge contribution to this bill that would fix No Child Left Behind. No committee member has been more valuable than he has. He's used his experience as chairman of the Georgia Board of Education and as a member of the Education Committee in both the Senate and the House to help us do a better job here,” said Chairman Alexander.

“Senator Isakson is the champion of giving parents the right to know whether or not their state gives them the opportunity to opt out of the federally required tests. That's his amendment today. And he was the sponsor of the amendment that appears in the Alexander-Murray bill, which gives states the express authority to decide whether… parents may opt their children out of the tests. So the Isakson amendment gives states the power to provide the opt-out and it gives parents the opportunity to know enough information to be able to do it. So that's consistent with this legislation which requires the important measurements of achievement so we can know whether children are achieving or not and whether schools are achieving or not but then restores to states and local school boards and classroom teachers and parents the decisions about how to help those children achieve.”

“That's the kind of local control of education that I think most of us on both sides of the aisle, whether it's the senator from Montana speaking this morning or the senator from Georgia speaking this afternoon, that's the spirit of the consensus that guides this bill, and Senator Isakson's contribution has been enormous to the right of parents to provide an opt out of federally required tests for their children if they and their state choose to do it.”

On April 16, 2015, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee passed the bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act out of committee in a unanimous vote.

Isakson secured many provisions benefitting Georgia students and families in the measure passed out of committee, including removing federally mandated definitions on High Quality Teachers, adopting an accountability system that is truly designed and implemented by the states, reinforcing parental rights to opt their children out of state assessments, and more increasing coordination and streamlining early childhood education programs.

A vote on final passage of the Every Child Achieves Act is expected this week.