More parents joining opt-out movement against standardized tests

/ Source: TODAY

State-mandated standardized tests are a familiar routine for children in schools nationwide, but parents are increasingly questioning their use and keeping their kids from taking the exams.

Critics say state testing takes time away from other experiences, like art and music, doesn’t measure "real" learning and is a waste of teachers’ time. They also worry schools are focused more on routine tests than a child's education.

“My older son only took it in third grade — he is now in seventh grade. My younger child has never taken the test,” Jeanette Deutermann, a Long Island, New York mom told TODAY..

“These tests are actually harming children… refusing the test is our way to really say that we do not agree with the way that our kids are being educated right now and we're saying we won't participate.”

Maribel Padin-Canestro, another Long Island mom, agreed.

“I will not let my children go anywhere near any test,” she said.

Some educators are also critical. The tests are part of a corporate agenda, said teacher Jia Lee.

Related: Teacher quits over emphasis on standardized tests

The “opt out” movement seems to be growing. Some 200,000 students in New York declined to take the tests last year, along with 20,000 students in Illinois. The rules and consequences of opting out differ from state to state. In California, parents can opt their children out as long as they write a letter. But in Louisiana, students risk being held back a grade if they don't take state tests.

Education officials counter the tests have many benefits. The New York State Education Department called its exam “an important yardstick” and touted its redesign, which will feature fewer questions and no time limits this year.

“I don't believe in opting out. I think it’s really important that we see what we're capable of,” said Carmen Farina, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.

Related: Teacher's note tells students they are more than their standardized test scores

Some experts agree.

“What testing teaches us is how to measure and diagnose where kids are so we can adjust teaching technique so we can figure out how to help them,” said Gail Gross, a family and child development expert.

Critics of the "opt-out movement" also say it’s designed by affluent families who can’t stand to see their kids fail.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has reminded states that they need to test 95 percent of eligible students or risk of losing funding. So as schools hold exams over the next few weeks, they'll be facing some tough questions themselves.