Opting Out of Testing in Va.

Can you opt your child out of SOL testing in Virginia?

Yes, you can, but there are some restrictions.

Restrictions at the K – 8 level 

Some school divisions require students to take and pass their grade level SOL exams to move up a level.  Opting your child out of SOL testing in those divisions could result in your child being held back.  Other school divisions use SOL exams scores as the primary factor determining whether the child must attend summer school or other remedial classes.  Opting your child out of SOL testing in those divisions could result in your child being forced to attend summer school or take remediation classes.

Whether parents can refuse to allow their children to be tested without detrimental impacts to them at the K – 8 level depends on where their children attend school and their children’s public school division’s policies and regulations.  We’ve looked at the policies and regulations in some of Virginia’s public school divisions, formed opinion son them, and have posted those reports in the sections below.

Restrictions at the High School level 

State education law requires students to pass the SOL exams for certain high school level courses to graduate.  Because passing these exams is required to graduate, we do NOT recommend that parents refuse testing for their children taking high school level courses.

School Accrediting

Some parents have expressed concerns that the refusing to allow their child to be tested could rest in their school not being accredited.  Absolutely, it could.  Refusing to allow your child is a protest against state and local  policies and is not a decision to be made lightly.  It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it had no potential impact.

There are two areas where accrediting could be affected by parents refusing to allow their children to be tested (a) percentage passing (b) percentage participating.

Dr Wright addressed both of those issues in a guidance letter she sent to school divisions on May 24, 2013 (see Dr Wright Memo – May 24, 2013).

(a) Percentage Passing.  Schools must pass a set and increasing percentage of students on the state end of year exams each year.  Under state guidance, students whose parents refuse to allow them to be tested will be assigned a score of “0” on their exams.  The “0” will be included in the percentage passing calculation.  Since a “0” is clearly not passing, the “0” could reduce the school and district’s overall pass rate.

Some parents have argued that the “0” isn’t appropriate because the child didn’t take the exam and therefore has no score.  Those parents have argued that there is a difference between no score and a “0”.   While we believe those parents have a point, at the present time the state disagrees and the guidance provided to school districts by Dr Wright is the state’s suggested protocol.

(b) Percentage Participating   Under Dr Wright’s guidance, students whose parents refuse to have them tested will be assigned a Testing Status Code of “5”, which indicates refusal to be tested.  Refusal to be tested counts as participating, so that the state, division, and school participation percentages for state and federal accrediting will not be affected if you refuse testing for your child.

Teacher Evaluations

Teacher evaluations are required to include student achievement, per both state and federal policies .  Because the state has indicated that the Testing Status Code of “5” should be used when testing is refused, selecting test score data to exclude any scores with a Testing Status Code of “5” should be a simple, easy process.  As such, we encourage teachers to keep a list of students whose parents have refused to allow them to be tested and to ensure that their performance measures exclude those scores.

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Guidance for Parents Choosing to Refuse Testing for their Child / Children

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Refusing to allow your child / children to be tested on state exams is something each parent should carefully consider.  Many school districts are uncomfortable and unhappy when parents refuse to allow their child / children to the tested.  Some will threaten parents about adverse consequences for their children that are not supported by their policies or regulations.   Some will try to make parents feel guilty about affecting the schools chances of being accredited or of adversely impacting their child’s teacher’s evaluation.

We suggest that parents become as familiar as they can be with their school division’s policies and regulations as they can BEFORE they choose to refuse testing.  Because each school division has different policies regarding the impact of SOLs score on promotion and retention, remediation, inclusion in gifted or more advanced instructional programs, and grading, and sometimes those policies vary between schools in the same division and teachers in the same school, we encourage parents to communicate with their school division, school administration, and child’s teacher(s) to understand what impact refusing to allow their child to be tested will have BEFORE they refuse testing.

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Local Testing Policies and Regulations

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We’ve provided our opinion of the policies and regulations in some of Virginia’s public school divisions in the reports linked below.  The reports provide the opinions we’ve reached based on our interpretation of the school division’s policies and regulations.  School divisions change their policies and regulations frequently.  The reports are our opinions and nothing more.  Parents are advised to conduct their own analysis and to communicate their choice with their school division.

Arlington County Public Schools (under construction)

Alexandria City Public Schools (under construction)

Falls Church City Public Schools (under construction)

Fairfax County Public Schools (under construction)

Fauquier County Public Schools

Lee County Public Schools (under construction)

Loudoun County Public Schools (under construction)

Manassas City Public Schools (under construction)

Manassas Park City Public Schools (under construction)

Orange County Public Schools (under construction)

Prince William County Public Schools (under construction)

Stafford County Public Schools (under construction)

Warren County Public Schools (under construction)

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact us via email at PWC_Ed_Reform at yahoo.com

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CCSS – Federal Testing Law / Executive Orders

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There is nothing in either current education law, which is still NCLB, or the executive orders granting waivers to states from adhering to NCLB that prohibits parents from refusing to allow their child to be tested.

Students in CCSS participating states will be given exams developed the testing consortia that their state belongs to.  The two consortia are PARCC and Smarter Balanced.  Exams from those consortia are still in the testing phase and have not been released yet. The PARCC exams are expected to be released during the 2014 – 2015 school year.

From their website, “the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a consortium of 22 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands working together to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math anchored in what it takes to be ready for college and careers. These new K-12 assessments will build a pathway to college and career readiness by the end of high school, mark students’ progress toward this goal from 3rd grade up, and provide teachers with timely information to inform instruction and provide student support. The PARCC assessments will be ready for states to administer during the 2014-15 school year.”  PARCC states are: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mass., Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

From their website, “the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) is a state-led consortium working to develop next-generation assessments that accurately measure student progress toward college- and career-readiness. Smarter Balanced is one of two multistate consortia awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to develop an assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by the 2014-15 school year. The work of Smarter Balanced is guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction and help students succeed – regardless of disability, language or subgroup. Smarter Balanced involves experienced educators, researchers, state and local policymakers and community groups working together in a transparent and consensus-driven process.”  Smarter Balanced states are: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Hawaii, and the US Virgin Islands.

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Articles We’ve Written on Testing

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Can You Say No to State Mandated Testing?  The truth is that non-participation in SOL testing at the elementary school level poses no negative consequences within Virginia public schools.  Surprised?  So were we.

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