My Letter to the NYS Board of Regents and Commissioner Elia Regarding ESSA Opt Out Provisions

August 16, 2018 

Dear Commissioner Elia and the NYS Board of Regents, 

In private, many of you respect and even agree with our criticisms of New York State’s (NYS) math and English-language arts (ELA) assessments administered annually to students in grades 3-8. Particularly for students with learning disabilities and/or English-language learners, you nod your heads when we discuss with you how developmentally inappropriate and poorly constructed the tests are.  

These state tests have been widely derided by NYS parents and teachers alike.  Your flawed (and manipulated) methods for determining scores, coupled with the poor design of the assessments, render test results meaningless. Yet the state testing program continues to be the sun around which most school and district decisions rotate, including plans to close schools. Furthermore, the changes you have made to the Common Core-aligned tests, in response to our outrage dating back to 2013, have been largely cosmetic. No positive changes have been made to the content and design of the assessments, for example. 

Until we see significant changes to your testing program, we will continue to opt out. We have very little power in your top-down and undemocratic approach to shaping public education in New York but we do, under federal law, have the right to refuse your tests.  

Therefore, *I strongly oppose your draft ESSA regulations that could allow NYSED to label any schools with opt out rates over 5% as needing Comprehensive or Targeted Support, require them to use Title I funds to lower these rates, and even close these schools and/or convert them to charter schools.

None of these provisions are required by the ESSA law, none of them would improve the learning conditions for NYS children, and all of them contradict earlier statements from the Board of Regents that schools with high opt out rates would not be punished.

I strongly urge you to delete these provisions from the proposed regulations, and allow parents to opt out of the state exams if they so choose, as ESSA allows.


Katie Lapham

NYC parent and teacher 

Districts 13 and 15, Brooklyn 

*The last three paragraphs were copied from:


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