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Idaho K-12 students cannot opt out of standardized school testing

Idaho K-12 students cannot opt out of standardized school testing

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
September 11, 2013
[post_thumbnail] Melissa McGrath, spokesperson for the Idaho Department of Education, says opting out of standardized tests is not an option for Idaho students and that such tests serve as one of the markers for how well students are doing in their studies.

According to reports from the Associated Press, a growing number of parents across the country are choosing to remove their school-aged children from standardized testing in public schools. In Idaho parents are not officially given the option allow their student to “opt out” of standardized testing although, according to one school district official, the state keeps records of when students miss such tests.

“The state has no policy allowing for students to opt out of standardized tests in Idaho,” according to Melissa McGrath, spokesperson for the Idaho State Department of Education. “For more than a decade, Idaho has had core standards in place and has measured students against these standards, and the state has never had an opt-out policy.”

In what the news agency describes as an “opt-out movement,” the AP reported in a news story that a “small but growing number” of parents around the nation are keeping their children out of standardized testing. The story said that parents are withholding their children from standardized tests for a “myriad of reasons,” including “the stress they believe it brings on young students, discomfort with tests being used to gauge teacher performance, fear that corporate influence is overriding education and concern that test prep is narrowing curricula down to the minimum needed to pass an exam.”

According to McGrath, it is the official policy of the Idaho Department of Education that standardized testing is an appropriate means of measuring a student’s academic progress. “Measurement is a critical part of any industry,” she explained. “In education, assessments—whether administered at the state, district or classroom level—are used to determine how students are performing and whether or not they are reaching the goals the state has set for them.”

McGrath added that such standardized testing is only one, yet an important measure of how a particular school is performing.

McGrath’s responses to standardized tests and opt-out policies mirror those offered to IdahoReporter.com by Allison Westfall, spokesperson for the Nampa School District. Westfall, too, noted that standardized tests are but one measure to evaluate the achievements of students and teachers, but indicates several others as well. “We rely on multiple measures such as grades, assignments, student work, other assessments, etc., to determine whether students and teachers are reaching expectations,” she said.

Rob Sauer, superintendent of the Homedale School District, told IdahoReporter.com that the district has no official policy on opting out of standardized tests. “Not only that,” he said, “but we have had no parents request such a thing within the past year.”

Once possible exception to the “no opt-out” stance of education department was noted by Karen Christensen, director of student services at the Cassia School District in Burley. “When we administer the ISAT (Idaho Standards Achievement Test) we have to keep a careful account of every student,” she told IdahoReporter.com.

Noting that the computer entry form used by the state to record a student’s test participation and score also makes a record of when a student doesn’t participate in the test. Christensen said that there are several options that teachers and administrators can select when noting that a student missed the test. “One of the options allows us to record when a student misses the ISAT because of illness,” she said, but another option allows the notation of students whose parents refused to let them take the test. “The state department of education is not allowing parents to opt out, but the department makes a record of when parents do opt out,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Coeur d’Alene School District, Laura Rumpler, agreed with the idea that more than just test scores are needed in evaluating students. She called them “a snapshot of performance at a point in time.”

While her district does not have an opt-out policy in place, she said “parents may request to opt out in writing.” She added, however, that “in the past four years, an average of one parent annually requested not to have their child tested on the ISAT or Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI).”

McGrath told IdahoReporter.com that parents and students will not be permitted to opt out of the testing that will soon be implemented as part of the new, nationalized Common Core academic standards effort in which Idaho is participating. “This is not new,” she said. “For more than a decade, Idaho has had core standards in place and has measured students against these standards.”

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