11th-grade test-refusal rate in county higher than statewide

OLYMPIA — More than half of high school juniors in Washington refused to take the state new standardized test, according to initial participation numbers for 2015 released Thursday.

Roughly seven of every 10 juniors in the Mukilteo, Edmonds, Snohomish and Stanwood-Camano school districts did not take the Smarter Balanced assessment this spring. Those are some of the highest refusal rates in the state.

More than 250 school districts reported their participation numbers to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Mukilteo, Edmonds, Snohomish and Stanwood-Camano ranked in the top 10 for 11th-grade refusal rates on either the math or English portions of the test.

The numbers could change when final results come out in August, OSPI spokeswoman Kristen Jaudon said. For example, not all districts separated formal refusals from absences in the initial results.

“When you’re looking at the district numbers, I’d caution against drawing too many conclusions,” she said. “This is still preliminary. We’ll have more details and a better plan in August.”

A few factors likely contributed to the high refusal rate among juniors, she said. The test wasn’t a graduation requirement for them, as it was for sophomores taking the English portion. There also has been a growing movement of people who oppose standardized tests, Jaudon said.

Many 11th-graders in Mukilteo, the district with the highest refusal rate in Snohomish County, opted not to take the Smarter Balanced assessment because they’d already met graduation requirements in 10th grade, district spokesman Andy Muntz said Friday. Some were enrolled in Advanced Placement classes and wanted to use the time to study for AP tests and finals.

Other students refused as a form of protest because they believe schools test too much, Muntz said.

In Edmonds, 20 students protested in front of Meadowdale High School on a May morning when they were scheduled to take the test. They argued that it took away from other learning time and caused unnecessary anxiety.

“There was more communication out there from people who are opposed to the test and to testing in general,” Edmonds School District spokeswoman Debbie Jakala said. “There was a change in the testing atmosphere this year where 11th-graders knew it wasn’t part of their graduation requirements and didn’t take it.”

The refusal rate in Edmonds looks like an outlier in the state data now, but officials expect final results will show more districts with similar numbers.

“We would like to wait until final figures have been tallied by the state that include not only refusals, but also absences,” said Nancy Katims, director of assessment for the Edmonds School District. “We think that when these numbers are added, the numbers of 11th-grade students who did not take the (test) will likely be more similar across districts.”

Based on initial participation numbers, nearly half of the juniors in the Northshore and Monroe school districts did not take the test. Roughly 30 percent of 11th-graders refused in Everett and Marysville.

Participation was higher in Arlington, Lake Stevens and Sultan, where less than 20 percent of students refused to test.

The Darrington, Lakewood and Granite Falls school districts did not report any juniors who refused to test.

The low participation statewide could lead to federal sanctions. Though the new test isn’t yet a graduation requirement for high school juniors, it is used to meet federal accountability standards, which require 95 percent participation.

“Looking at the state, we did not meet that 95 percent requirement once 11th grade is factored in,” Jaudon said. “The (U.S.) Department of Education hasn’t yet told us what, if any, sanctions will come as a result.”

It could mean a loss of federal funding for high-poverty schools, rural schools, early intervention programs for students with disabilities, language programs for migrant students and programs to recruit and train staff.

There also are local consequences for low participation, State Superintendent Randy Dorn said this spring. Test results help administrators and lawmakers learn where to focus money and staff time.

Smarter Balanced math and English tests officially were rolled out in Washington this year after piloting the all-online exam last year with a number of school districts, including Everett. The tests are based on the Common Core education standards and are meant to replace Washington’s other testing regimens.

Students in third through eighth, 10th and 11th grades took the test this year. Tenth-graders only took the English portion.

Refusal rates among high school sophomores, middle school and elementary students were relatively low. When 11th-graders are left out of the tally, the state exceeds a 95 percent participation rate.

Final test results are expected to be released in August.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

11th-grade test refusal rates

Percentages rounded to nearest whole number.

School district Refused English test Refused math test
Arlington 13% 16%
Darrington 0% 0%
Edmonds 69% 69%
Everett 31% 34%
Granite Falls 0% 0%
Lake Stevens 20% 14%
Lakewood 0% 0%
Marysville 31% 36%
Monroe 49% 48%
Mukilteo 70% 73%
Northshore 48% 47%
Snohomish 69% 70%
Stanwood 69% 70%
Sultan 4% 4%
Index Not reported Not reported
* Statewide 53% 53%

* Statewide numbers reflect potential refusals. Not all results are in and the number could change.

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