As schools roll out new testing aligned with Common Core standards this Spring, the opt out movement is seeing an increase across the country.
While the movement is still new, it is gaining momentum as it moves throughout the over 40 states that have adopted the Common Core standards. Superintendents in New York State have reported as may as 60-70% of students in schools who are not participating in the exams.
However, opting out comes with a price. If less than 95% of students in a district participate in the new exams, federal money could be withheld in the future. According to the US Department of Education, this has yet to happen.
“It is a theoretical club administrators have used to coerce participation, but a club that is increasingly seen as a hollow threat,” said Bob Schaeffer with the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which seeks to limit standardized testing.
Tens of thousands of students did not participate in the first day of testing in New York, as some districts reported as many as half of their students did not take the English exam. The numbers of students who have opted out in the state have increased from last year, when about 49,000 students did not take the English test and around 67,000 did not participate in the math exam.
Increased numbers of students opting out are being reported in other states, including Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Maine and Oregon, with more states expected to report similar findings as they begin to administer the exams.
California, the state with the largest public school system, has yet to see any large protests concerning the exams. It is possible that this is due to state official’s decision there to not hold schools accountable for test results this year, writes Christina A. Cassidy for Deseret News.
Supporters of the exams argue that they hold schools accountable for student success, which in turn helps to solve the problems within the education system.
Assessing every student each year “gives educators and parents an idea of how the student is doing and ensures that schools are paying attention to traditionally underserved populations,” U.S. Department of Education Spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said in an emailed statement.
Meanwhile, critics say the standards are a federal intrusion into the education system, which they say should be operated at a local level. The standards were developed by the National Governors Association and each state’s education leaders as a result of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program.
While the Obama administration has encouraged the adoption of the standards through the Race to the Top federal grant program, each state is still free to create its own tests as long as they are aligned with the standards.