Colorado saw a lot of opt-outs when new science and social studies assessments were introduced. In 2015, tens of thousands of students opted-out of PARCC equaling roughly one in ten students did not take PARCC because of parental refusals. Colorado’s State Board of Education adopted a policy afterwards that did not count those students in a school’s average score so the state would not penalize schools if they had a high number of opt-outs.
That new policy was part of Colorado’s ESSA state accountability plan and the Feds rejected it, and so the board caved.
That proved to be a sticking point when state officials submitted Colorado’s plan for complying with the nation’s new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. Federal officials sent the plan back, saying the opt-out provision didn’t comply with the new law.
In the compromise, the state will continue to issue state school quality ratings that don’t penalize schools for high opt-out rates.
However, the state will create a separate list of schools based on the federal requirement that students who opt out are counted as not proficient.
Some state board members worried two systems would create additional work for teachers, create confusion among the public or misidentify schools.
State officials said Wednesday, teachers, students and parents shouldn’t notice much difference. No school or district will be responsible for submitting more data. The state will be responsible for slicing and dicing results from annual tests as they have in the past.
Because Colorado students who opt out tend to be white and more affluent, this change could flag schools for financial support to boost learning that really don’t need it.
State education officials assured the board that it had discretion in identifying whether a school is truly low-performing or if its scores are deflated from low participation.
Colorado’s policy gave parents who wanted to opt their children out from assessments some space. Now schools could, yet again, ramp up pressure on those families to have their students take the assessment. It is ludicrous that a student will be considered “not proficient” in the federal system simply because they didn’t take a standardized assessment. That student could very well be the school’s valedictorian.
This news from Colorado further demonstrates that ESSA does not provide the promised flexibility to states. Colorado’s State Board of Education had the opportunity to challenge this farce of a law, it’s unfortunate they chickened out.