Congratulations to Utah for challenging U.S. officials to allow a more accurate picture of school quality ("Utah seeks to 'opt out' of Every Student Succeeds Act year-end tests," Feb. 14). The state seeks a waiver from the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to avoid giving zeros to students who refuse state tests.
Utah intends to create a more reliable and meaningful state accountability system. It also wants to support parents who refuse testing for their children. Many families have opted out because they want to see their school focus less on testing and more on learning. The state correctly argues that giving such children zeros will paint an inaccurate picture of student achievement.
For more than a decade, the federal No Child Left Behind law pressured teachers to focus narrowly on preparing students for tests in math and reading. This kept them from delivering well-rounded, whole-child education. After years of damage from test-and-punish policies, states like Utah are trying to respond to parents' concerns. They should not have to sacrifice federal education funds in order to do so.
Of course, with a federal waiver, Utah will need to monitor schools to ensure that they don't try to make test results look better by coercing low-scoring students to opt out. Assuming such monitoring is in place, the state's initiative should be supported, not punished.
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts