Parental Opt-Out of Student Testing Bill Passes Assembly

Assembly Bill 239 (as amended) was passed by the full state Assembly last week (Oct. 27).  The bill now heads to the state Senate, where a companion bill, Senate Bill 193, has been voted out of committee.

The bill, as amended, requires a school board, upon request of a parent or guardian, to excuse a pupil enrolled in any grade from 3 to 12 from taking any examination required under state or federal law, except for an examination that is a high school graduation requirement. [Under current law, upon request from a parent or guardian, a school board, independent charter school, and private voucher school must excuse a pupil in 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th grade from taking state assessment adopted by the state superintendent of public instruction that is required to be administered to pupils in that grade.]

The WASB has a number of strong concerns about this bill.

The WASB has strong concerns about a provision in the amended bill that prohibits the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) from considering how many pupils enrolled in a school or school district have been excused from taking an examination required under state or federal law for purposes of the annual school and school district accountability report published by DPI.

The inclusion of this provision could mean that a school in which 90 percent of the students opt-out of taking the exam could be compared via the school report cards with a school in which all or nearly all students take the exam. The WASB has strong concerns that a comparing such a small sample of student results in one school with results from widespread or even total participation in another school could distort the picture parents receive when trying to compare the schools.  This provision also ignores that the federal No Child Left Behind  law requires the state to test at least 95 percent of students and could create problems with the U.S. Department of Education, including possible sanctions.

The WASB also has strong concerns about a potentially burdensome requirement in the amended bill that requires, beginning in the 2016-17 school year, each school board to annually provide the parent or guardian of each pupil enrolled in the school district with a copy of, or access to, yet another a lengthy notice.

This required notice must include a summary of the pupil examinations the school board is required to administer under state and federal law, as well any examinations the school board requires to assess pupil, school, or school district performance. In addition, this required summary must include:

  • the grade level to which each examination will be administered;
  • the expected date on which each examination will be administered;
  • the duration of each examination;
  • the process used to determine an appropriate alternative in-school activity for pupils who have opted out of an examination;
  • the policies and procedures regarding opting a student out of an examination; and
  • the purpose of administering each examination and a description of how the school board, operator, or governing body will use data derived from each examination.