Students opting out of state standardized test doubles in Springfield, Bethel districts
Eugene district also sees bump in numbers
The number of students who chose to “opt out” of the state’s standardized Smarter Balanced tests in the Bethel and Springfield school districts more than doubled between the 2015-16 school year and the previous year, district officials say.
The number of students who opted out in the Eugene School District also increased, although not as dramatically.
In the Bethel district in west Eugene, 123 students were excused from the test after their parents signed an official, state-issued opt-out form. In the Springfield district, 225 students chose not to complete the tests and in the Eugene district 927 students opted out.
The numbers reported by each district do not include students in district-sponsored charter schools, nor the number of students who chose not to take the test but failed to turn in the paperwork informing the district of that decision.
State-mandated testing has been a controversial topic in the Eugene-Springfield area, and other parts of the state, for several years. Earlier this month, the Springfield School Board may have been the first in the state to actively encourage parents to opt their children out of taking the tests.
The total number of students who did not participate in the Springfield, Eugene and Bethel districts, and across the state, won’t be known until late July after final tallies are counted, Oregon Department of Education officials said this week.
The increases are probably due in part to the fact that this school year was the first in which students could be dismissed from the test, with a parent’s permission, without providing a specific reason.
The Oregon Legislature last June passed House Bill 2655, which gives parents the right to opt their child out of the state tests for at least the next six years. It also requires schools to notify parents and students of that right via a state-issued opt-out form, at least 30 days prior to administering the tests.
Prior to this school year, parents had to check a box indicating that their child either had a disability or a religious belief that would prohibit them from taking such tests.
The standardized assessments are designed to evaluate students’ knowledge of the Common Core standards, a set of learning goals for each grade level that most states, including Oregon, have adopted. The tests are required for all students in grades three through eight, and 11th grade. The 2015-16 school year was the second year students in Oregon completed the Smarter Balanced tests.
In November, the state education department issued the opt-out form and described how the tests provide the state with student data. A short paragraph at the end of the form, located just above where parents were directed to sign, cautioned them of potential negative consequences associated with approving the opt-out, stating that parents could lose “valuable information” about their child’s academic progress.
The paragraph also warns parents that having their child opt out of the state tests could affect their school’s and district’s Students opting out of state standardized test doubles in Springfield, Bethel districts | Local | Eugene, Oregon: