Madalena Larkins The Charter Opinions 1/22/20
Just like other public schools, ACA students in grades 3rd-8th and 11th participate in state testing. There’s one difference.
ACA is required to meet or exceed the test and participation scores of conventional public schools in our district, and if we don’t we are required to create a School Improvement Plan, and failure to create or comply with the plan could result in ACA being shut down. If public schools fail to meet these same standards, they usually receive increased funding, according to a report by Robert Manwaring of Education Sector.
The standard schools are required to meet is Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is a measurement defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act which allows the U.S. Department of Education to determine how every public school and school district in the country is performing, according to results on standardized tests.
Traditional public schools and charter schools are required to meet the federal participation requirement of 95 percent for state testing.
Schools get a zero score for each student who opts out of state testing. That zero is factored in to our averages, which negatively skews the overall results. When students opt out of state testing it lowers ACA’s average score and our participation rate.
Another reason students shouldn’t opt out is that passing the test in 11th grade is a graduation requirement and “If students opt out at every opportunity prior to 11th grade, they may be at a disadvantage because they’ve never experienced the test before,” says ACA’s Director, Seanna Bloemer.
Students opt out of testing for a variety of reasons including scheduling conflicts, skepticism of how accurately the test portrays academic ability, and in some cases, just because they want to. After all, it requires students to go to school every day for the better part of a week to take a series of tests. Who wants to do that when they could just stay home?
Test coordinator at ACA, Michael Lancaster, acknowledges that valid reasons for opting out of state testing do exist. He says that the validity of a reason depends on the situation, and in the end it’s up to families and their ESes to consider all factors.
Last year ACA started a new policy where students test alphabetically by last name instead of by grade, making it easier for families and enabling them to only have to drive to school at one time of day. Despite this, transportation is still an issue that causes some students to opt out. Abigail Reynolds, an 8th grader at ACA, opted out last year “because both my parents work and we couldn’t come to testing.” Although ACA offers alternate times to test, they are few and limited, and for a lot of families opting out is just easier.
Rebecca Olson, sophomore at ACA, has opted out of state testing in previous years. “I opted out because I found it stressful and unhelpful… l know opting out of state testing can hurt the school, but for me I don’t feel that that is a good enough reason not to opt out, I’m not at school to help the school, I’m here to learn and get an education,” says Olson.
However, one cannot get an education from a school that doesn’t exist. If students want to support ACA and keep it available to other students as an alternative to traditional public education, they shouldn’t opt out of state testing unless they really need too.
“I found state testing to be pretty easy and the test proctors were very nice,” said Anna Aldrich, a freshman at ACA. This statement was echoed by Reynolds; “I didn’t really mind it [state testing].”
I participated in state testing all the way up through 6th grade. I actually enjoyed doing it, however in 7th grade I opted out because it conflicted with my high school math class. At the time I didn’t know the effects opting out had on ACA. Looking back, I realize I should have just been excused from my math class.
Alliance Charter Academy’s Charter Contract, effective 1 July, 2018. through 31 August, 2023. Accessed 22 Jan, 2020
Aldrich, Anna. “Re: Opting Out of State testing.” Received by Madalena Larkins, 15 Jan. 2020.
Bloemer, Seanna. Personal Interview. Jan 22 2020.
Lancaster, Michael. Personal Interview. Jan 16 2020.
Manwaring, Robert. Education Sector report “Improving Interventions for Low-Performing Schools and Districts.” 10 April, 2010.
Olson, Rebecca. Personal Interview. Jan. 16, 2020.
Oregon Department of Education 2019-20 Opt Out Form. Accessed 15 Jan, 2020.
Reynolds, Abigail. Personal Interview. Jan. 16, 2020.
Starr, Sydney. Personal Interview. Jan. 16, 2020.
Shulikov, Rachel. “Testing Opt Outs Affect ACA.” The Charter News, 8 May 2019.
The New York Times Editorial board. Editorial “Opting Out of Standardized Tests isn’t the Answer.” August 15, 2015.