Published Online: June 9, 2015
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How Could Opting Out Affect School Ratings?

In a backlash against perceived overtesting, many students’ parents are choosing to “opt out” of mandated standardized tests, including those aligned to the common core, like those from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Research for Action, an educational research nonprofit, ran a simulation to determine how the opt-out movement could affect schools’ ratings. The researchers used data from Pennsylvania’s school rating system, which determines teacher and principal effectiveness and measures state compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act and the law’s waivers.

Their findings, illustrated below, showed that a relatively small number of homogenous students opting out could tip a school’s rating into a different score bracket, and possibly trigger sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education.

In a school of approximately 200 students, it could take as few as 11 high-performing opt-outs to drop the school’s rating into a lower score category. Twenty low-performing opt-outs could inflate the school's rating by one score category. Results in either direction could complicate federal K-12 funding.

The school’s original rating was 72.2, with no students opting out. By clicking on the buttons below, see how the school rating changes based on the number of students opting out.

Source: "The Potential Effects of Opting Out of State Testing in Pennsylvania," Research for Action, September 2014 | Design & Visualization: Maria Moy & Vanessa Solis

Notes: High-achieving students score proficient or above on all their tests; low-achieving students score basic or below. Test scores have been extrapolated from school-level data at an elementary school of approximately 200 students, and do not represent individual students. Scores come from reading, writing, math, and science Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone Exams. Components in the test-score category of the state-accountability system were adjusted to reflect the impact of opt-outs on school ratings. Other components of the state rating system were kept constant.

Vol. 34, Issue 34
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