N.Y. Opt-Out Rate Hits 20 Percent on Common-Core Tests

By Andrew Ujifusa — August 12, 2015 2 min read
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We finally have an answer to a burning question about the epicenter of the opt-out movement.

According to data released by the New York state education department Aug. 12, 20 percent of students in grades 3-8 eligible to take the statewide tests in reading and math for the 2014-15 school year did not do so.

It’s the third year that New York state students have taken tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. And scores didn’t change dramatically from last year to this year.

Overall statewide proficiency rates in 2014-15 were 31.3 percent on the reading exam and 38.1 percent in math. The math proficiency rate rose by just under 2 percentage points from the 2013-14 rate, but in reading, the proficiency rate rose by less than a percentage point.

The Fruits of the Opt-Out Movement

The push by parents, the New York State United Teachers, and other groups for parents to opt their students out of the tests has been the subject of intense interest and media scrutiny for months.

According to demographic information from the department, those who did not have a “recognized, valid reason” for not taking the exams were:

  • More likely to be white;
  • More likely not to have achieved proficiency on last year’s exams;
  • Less likely to be economically disadvantaged;
  • Less likely to come from an economically needy district, and;
  • Less likely to be an English-language learner.

Those findings are consistent with what former Brookings Institution Matt Chingos reported in a preliminary analysis about opt-out rates in New York released earlier this year, before official numbers were available.

“Without an annual testing program, the progress of our neediest students may be ignored or forgotten, leaving these students to fall further behind. This cannot happen,” New York State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a statement regarding the opt-out numbers.

Tisch has previously warned that high opt-out rates could threaten the validity the state’s common-core tests, which were created by Pearson, and “force” the state into using another test. But it’s not immediately clear what policy impact the opt-out rate will have in New York. The opt-out rates in New York City, at 1.8 percent for the math test and 1.4 percent for the reading test, roughly tripled from last year’s rates, but were still far below the statewide opt-out average, according to Chalkbeat New York.

One opt-out activist in New York, Chris Cerrone, objected to the state’s characterization that those participating in opt-out had no “valid” reason for not taking the test:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.