Assessment

Report: Small Subgroup of Parents Opt Students out of Standardized Tests, Majority Support Them

In the 2014-15 school year, a small but distinct group of parents opted out of standardized testing for their children. However, the majority of the general public opposes opting children out, according to a new report from Educational Testing Service (ETS).

The report, "Opt Out: An Examination of Issues," covers the extent of the opt-out movement, its demographics, how much time students devote to tests, other factors driving the opt-out movement and the level of public support for testing in general. The report found that New York State, Rhode Island and Colorado had the highest opt-out rate. Students who opted out were more likely to be white, less likely to be economically disadvantaged and less likely to be English language learners. The occurrence of opting out was also notably higher at the high school level than at the elementary or middle school level.

According to the report, two common complaints from opt-out advocates are that "too much time is spent on testing, thereby detracting from learning and instruction" and that "the high-stakes nature of tests makes children extremely anxious and often ill."

"Opt out is a complicated, politically charged issue made more so by its social class and racial/ethnic associations," stated the report. "It is also an issue that appears to be as much about test use as about tests themselves. While the majority of the public opposes opt out, the minority that supports it is sizable, organized, vocal and politically effective."

The report cites several national surveys which indicate that the majority of the general population oppose allowing parents to opt their children out of standardized tests. However, most people also believe that standardized testing could be improved and that other assessment methods might be better.

The report argues for the importance of addressing the opt-out movement "because state assessments are the only comparable measures of building-level performance within a state and the only building-level measures disaggregated by demographic group." To address the movement, the report suggests that the assessment community should more actively and effectively communicate with policy makers, state department staff, local educators, parents, students and the public.

The full report is available as a free, downloadable PDF from the Wiley Online Library.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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