A new study in New York state suggests that more New York students refused to take state exams in wealthy school districts than in less affluent ones.
A study of preliminary test refusal data in New York state suggests that students in wealthy school districts are more likely to refuse to take that state’s tests than their less affluent peers.
The study, from the Brown Center for Education Policy, compared reports of test refusals in hundreds of New York school districts with data on family income to try to answer the question: Who opts out of state tests?
School districts with a large number of wealthy families posted the highest opt-out rates in New York, according to the study.
New York state this year experienced a higher-than-normal rate of students exercising their right to opt out of taking state exams in reading and math, fueled by support from parent activists and the state teacher’s union. The study raises an interesting question about whether Washington will have the same trends. (Testing data in this state won’t be released until mid-July.)
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But it’s already clear that there have been a high number of opt-outs at some Seattle high schools. Parents here have cited a number of reasons for why they didn’t want their children to take the state’s new Smarter Balanced exams, including dislike for computerized tests and frustration over how many tests students are supposed to take.
Matthew Chingos, the study’s author, said it’s anyone’s guess why more students refused to take the exams in wealthy New York districts. It could be that more affluent families care less about test scores, he said.
“Maybe they feel like, ‘Well, my kid can read and do math well enough. So why care about whether he aces these tests or not?’ ” he said.
Chingos tacked a lot of caveats onto his study, which was published in June. That’s because New York, like Washington, hasn’t yet released comprehensive school-by-school data about which students refused to take the tests. So he used the numbers that were available, which were compiled by a pro-opt-out advocacy organization. That group, United to Counter the Core, said it combined news media reports and information from administrators, parents and teachers to put together a rough list of how many students were opting out and where.
“I wouldn’t want anyone making policy decisions off of these numbers,” Chingos said.
Still, he said, it’s the best data available to date, and gives one of the first comprehensive looks at opt-outs this year.
An earlier Brown study looking at opt-outs and teacher evaluations suggested that the more students refuse to take standardized tests, the less fair a teacher’s evaluation becomes — at least when student scores are a factor in those evaluations.