According to a report in today’s Daily News, letters were sent out yesterday to parents informing them of their rights to opt-out of state testing, particularly the PSSA exams used to track school performance.
The section of the PA law that would allow parents to exempt their children from the PSSAs is religious based. Parents have the right to refuse to let their children participate in any school activity that interferes with religious belief or practice. Without needing to prove that any religious objection is actually based on something substantial, it’s being used by parents who object to the tests as way to keep their children out of the process.
School spokesman Fernando Gallard told the Daily News that he did not expect kids opting out of testing would impact school scores. If few people bother to follow through, he’ll be right.
But I’d be concerned that the children most likely to opt out — those with parents who are active and involved with their children’s education — are those that are likely to be the best students in their respective schools. If a lot of smart kids are pulled out of testing, what will happen to their schools?
A December 2014 story in The Public School Notebook by Jessica K. Beaver argued that studies have shown those test scores will fall. From her story:
If high-achieving students opt out, schools’ scores will fall. In cases where a school was hovering just above the threshold for “acceptable” performance – the Pennsylvania Department of Education says it’s an SPP score of 70 – it might take only a dozen or so high-achieving student opt-outs to lower the school’s rating.
Beaver later writes that there is no conclusive data to determine what sort of students will opt out, whether those opt-outs would contain more high-achieving students or not. But it does raise the issue that opting out might not be the best thing for the schools of those children who choose not to take the test.