Some High-Poverty Districts Exceed Federal Opt-Out Limit

 

Conventional wisdom is that parents who are opting their kids out of standardized tests are generally white and suburban. So I was surprised to hear education correspondent John Merrow point out that Jersey City, NJ had more than 5 percent of students opting out during this recent PBS NewsHour segment on the spring testing season. Not just a school or two, but the whole district.

The 5 percent figure is important because under federal law schools and districts must test at least 95 percent of their students in order to remain eligible for federal education funding. The requirement was put in place to ensure that schools didn’t exclude low-scoring kids from testing and to help track the performance of different groups of students within a school.

The demographic makeup of the opt-out movement has been a source of tremendous controversy between Common Core advocates and critics, who both wish to claim to be representing the views of a broad range of parents that includes those most often served badly by the education system.

In addition to Jersey City, NJ, there may be a few other high-poverty urban opt-out hotspots. For example, FairTest’s Bob Schaeffer points me to East Orange, NJ. A few other high-poverty districts may reach the 5 percent level when additional information comes in. The NYT has reported that nearly 5 percent of New Jersey elementary school students opted out, and nearly 15 percent of high school students.

In New York State, opt-out figures were low for poor districts like East Ramapo and Port Chester. Said the TImes, Students from very rich and very poor districts were “less likely to refuse to take the state test” than those towards the middle.

However, students in the poorest districts still opted out at a rate of 5-8 percent:

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Related posts: Common Problems With Common Core Reporting (CJR); Missing Context In AP’s Common Core Testing StoryLet’s Focus On What Actually Happens — Not What *Might* HappenPlease Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!Inside The Common Core Assessment “Field Test.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.