Opting Out of the PSSA: Frequently Asked Questions

If you'd like more information about how to opt out of the PSSA, or would like to see which schools in your area have families opting out already, take a look at our guide to Opting Out in PA.

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1.  Do I need to explain my religious beliefs with specific questions from the PSSA test on my opt out letter?

No.  A parent simply states "because of religious beliefs."  Once a parent reviews the PSSA, this is all that needs to be included in the letter:
On [Date] I had the opportunity to review the PSSA test and pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [Name] excused from PSSA testing because of religious beliefs.  
Parents must sign a confidentiality agreement. If they state anything specific from the PSSA test, THEY WILL BREACH THE CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT. Parents cannot, by nature of the confidentiality agreement, write specifically what they oppose for religious reasons on the PSSA test.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education explains this, see page 4, question 10 at Chapter 4 FAQ:
So, as long as a parent or guardian reviews the state assessment and provides a written statement providing his/her written objection for religious purposes (however vague that objection may be), the child must be excused from the assessment. PDE will not provide an opinion as to what is a proper religious objection.  
However, this false statement, and other similar false statements have been given to parents from their school districts:
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has made it clear that any objection to the testing materials for religious reasons must be specific in nature, must note the specific question or questions that are objectionable and the specific, religious reason for your objection. Please note a general statement of religious objection does not meet the intention of this review and will not be considered for possible exemption.
 
2.  My child is opted out of the PSSA testing, what will they do while their classmates are taking the PSSA's?
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) on page 9 of the PSSA Handbook:
If the student is excused from the assessment due to parental or guardian request, school personnel must provide an alternative learning environment for the student during the assessment and select “Student had a parental request for exclusion from the assessment."     

 

3.  When can I schedule to review the PSSA?  My school district has offered limited hours which makes it difficult for me to schedule a time to review.  

From page 9 of the 2015 PSSA Handbook for Assessment Coordinators:
Districts must provide a convenient time for the review. This may include an evening review time, if requested.

 

4. For more information about the Opt-Out Protocol: Parental request to view the PSSA and Keystone Exams-District Protocol

This document describes the process of opting out of PSSAs and Keystone exams. It was provided to ALL principals in the Philadelphia School District by the Office of Curriculum and Assessment. If you encounter school administrators who are are NOT following this protocol, immediately send an email to optoutphilly@gmail.com, so that we can work to resolve the issue. No one should feel bullied or intimidated for exercising their legal right to review and opt out of these assessments on religious grounds. 

 

What other questions do you have about Opting Out? Let us know on facebooktwitter or at contact@workingeducators.org!  

 

Reposted from Opt Out Pennsylvania Blog.