Few parents opt elementary children out of new state tests

SEATTLE — Complaints about the new statewide tests based on the national Common Core curriculum have been heard loudly on social media.

But few Washington parents acted on those complaints and opted their children out of the new tests, according to data released Thursday by state education officials.

More than 95 percent of children in grades 3 through 8 participated in the new statewide tests this spring. High school participation was considerably lower, at just under 50 percent statewide.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said he was proud of the students who tried the new tests and expressed hope that more high school students would participate next year.

High school students in Washington and five other states who meet the standard on either the math or English exam can now use their score to place into college level courses without taking a placement exam, a perk OSPI spokeswoman Kristen Jaudon thinks might influence some 11th graders to take the exams.

Jaudon said she wasn’t surprised by the refusal numbers.

“Personally, I didn’t know what to expect. The chatter varied so much from district to district,” she said. “Some districts were reporting no refusals. Some districts were reporting very high refusals.”

Opt-out rates varied widely across the state, with very low participation rates in some areas. For example, in 22 school districts, more than half of the 11th grade students did not take either the math or English tests this spring.

The highest percentage of test refusals were recorded in high schools in the Bainbridge Island, Issaquah, Eastmount, Enumclaw, Snoqulmie Valley and Mukilteo school districts, where more than 70 percent of 11th graders did not take either the math or the English tests.

The test scores of kids who opt-out of the exams or are absent on test days will be recorded as zeros. Statewide testing results released last week only showed the scores of students who took the tests.

In August, the state plans to release more detailed results, including district-by-district scores and opt-out rates. Those scores are expected to be lower than the results released last week, at least in some districts, because the zeros will be factored in.

Preliminary statewide test results released last week showed just over half of the children tested in grades three through eight met the standard on the new English language arts tests this year. Just under half of elementary students met the standard in math.

High school students did better than elementary students on the English test, with 62 percent making the grade. However, only 29 percent met the math standard.

“I want to emphasize that these numbers are still preliminary and we cannot draw absolute conclusions based on what has been reported to OSPI so far,” Jaudon said, concerning both test scores and participation rates. She said that statement is especially true when it comes to comparisons among districts.

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