Opting out: Parents creating contested spaces to challenge standardized tests





parent participation, accountability, state policy, ambiguity (context), policy analysis, standardized tests


We explore how the opt-out movement has responded to the combination of a stringent federal policy with weak and often variable implementation among the states. Gaps between federal expectations and states’ understandings of just how to make NCLB’s demands a reality have created policy ambiguity. Parents who oppose standardized testing have recognized the resulting tensions and oversights in state education systems as a policy vacuum rife with opportunities for resistance. We examine how parents have exploited policy ambiguity through creating contested spaces—places of agency in stringent policy environments in which grassroots can question policy authority and take action. We conclude by considering whether these contested spaces are sustainable and whether the policy outcomes generated in contested spaces are reasonably equitable.



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Author Biographies

Dana Mitra, Penn State University

Dana Mitra is an Associate Professor of Education at Penn State University. She has just published a book with Teachers College Press entitled Civic Education in the Elementary Grades Promoting Student Engagement in an Era of Accountability.

Bryan Mann, Penn State University

Bryan Mann is a PhD candidate in the Educational Theory and Policy program at Penn State University. His research interests include education policy, organizational change, charter schools, and K-12 online learning. 

Mark Hlavacik, University of North Texas

Mark Hlavacik is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Texas in Denton.




How to Cite

Mitra, D., Mann, B., & Hlavacik, M. (2016). Opting out: Parents creating contested spaces to challenge standardized tests. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24, 31. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.24.2142