State Testing Opt-Outs Lower Mason’s Performance Index: MCS Asking Legislature to Ensure Report Card is Accurate by Only Counting Performance of Students Who Took Tests
During the 2014-2015 school year, five percent of Mason City Schools students’ families refused to participate in state testing. Those opt-outs result in an approximately 5-point drop in Mason’s performance index. This drop will likely mean that Mason no longer remains in the state’s top achievers on the State Report Card since many of Mason’s high-performing peers did not have a similar level of opt-out requests. District leaders are advocating that the General Assembly ensure that the report card calculations be changed to accurately reflect students’ performance by removing opt-outs from the score.
“The public discussion and controversy surrounding the PARCC assessments precipitated a number of families opting their children out of state tests,” explained Dr. Gail Kist-Kline, Mason City Schools Superintendent. “The ‘Safe Harbor’ changes made by the General Assembly and ODE constituted a rational response to protests by the public and parents, including the withholding of students from state exams. But, penalizing schools and districts for exercising the legislature’s opt-out mechanism seems unfair and counter to the General Assembly’s intent.”
Ensuring State Report Card is Accurate
The number of student opt-outs is large enough to significantly affect district report cards if current law (which counts opt-outs as failures) stands. Because the safe harbor for students and teachers was not extended to schools and districts, districts and schools receive a “zero” when a student opts out of state testing - which negatively impacts a district’s state report card.
“We know that there is much more to a high quality education than what’s measured on the state tests. We have amazing arts, athletics and music programs, service learning opportunities, students honing their entrepreneurial and leadership skills, and most of all dedicated teachers and principals who are inspiring, caring and empowering our students,” said Dr. Kist-Kline. “However, we also know that data from the Report Card is an important way that prospective families, businesses and community members use to evaluate a school district. We strongly believe in accountability, and want to ensure that the state report card accurately reflects the performance of the students who actually took the test.”
Remove “Opt-Outs” from State Report Card Calculations
The Mason City School District advocates that the Legislature direct the Ohio Department of Education to exclude students who did not take required state tests from calculations that affect various indicators on the state report card - especially the Performance Index, Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO), and the early literacy measure. To be accurate, students who opted out of state testing should not be counted. Instead, in the interest of transparency, it would be wise to include a requirement that districts report the number of students who did not participate in the tests, and the total number of exams missed - in order for the public to be fully aware of the circumstances.
“Accountability is important. We have many ways that we benchmark our students’ performance - including Advanced Placement participation and scores, ACT results, and MAP results. We also respect our obligation to give state tests and report these important measures of learning. We are concerned about the validity of the Report Card data moving forward, however, and that is why we strongly advocate that it simply measure the performance of the students who actually took the tests,” said Dr. Kist-Kline.