Monday, March 24, 2014

Seattle Schools and "Refusal" to Take Tests

I asked SPS for a comment on what the policies are for parents who want to opt their students out of standardized testing.  (Although MAP is not mentioned, these answers probably apply.)  Here is the reply (and I'm happy to see this district not being punitive):

Currently for the MSP, we do not have “opt out” but rather parent or student refusal. (The language from the Washington State Assessment Coordinators Manual is at the bottom of this email.)

For parents who refuse to have their child tested – they may choose to keep them home in the morning of the test dates or if they come to school, they will be supervised but not have individualized instruction. Supervision could be helping in the library or assistance in K-2 since they do not test MSP. The parent refusal must be initiated by the parent and not a teacher suggestion.

We do not have the “sit and stare” policy.

Because it is parent initiated, they know their child will not be testing. They will not go to the office to be questioned. Once the request has been made by the parent – in writing:
1. It is filed in the student’s permanent record file.
2. The teacher/proctor is made aware that they will not be testing that student.
3. The student can come late on testing days or be supervised somewhere else in the building.

Because this is known in advance (parents who refuse to have their student tested are generally very proactive about making their desires known), schools will have time to plan what is the best situation for the student’s supervision if they do in fact attend a full day for testing.

Since parents may change their mind from year to year, we ask that the letter that requests their child not participate be submitted annually.

In some rare cases, student behavior suggests they do not want to test. When this happens, it is recommended that the student be removed from the testing environment and then once calmed down, they can attempt testing in a small group or 1:1 or perhaps wait until a make-up day and try again. In this event, the parent will be notified both on the day of disruptive behavior and if and when they are able to make-up the test or not. There is a separate coding on the booklet for “REASON NOT TESTED” – Parent Refusal or Student Refusal.

It sounds like this initial inquiry was about MSP. For HSPE and high school EOCs – this has become almost non-existent due to graduation requirements of passing high school exams.

Washington State Assessment Coordinators Manual

Parent Refusals
Federal and state laws require public schools to administer assessments to students enrolled in the specified grades and subjects, the assumption being that participation on the part of the student or approval on the part of the parent would not be an issue.

Because it is not specifically addressed in the legislation, adopted agency policy has been that students may refuse to participate or parents may refuse to have their children participate. The policy further requires the school to request that the refusal on the part of either the student or parent be put into writing by the parent and be kept on file at the school or district office. It is also recommended that the parent be requested to include the reason for not wanting the child tested. If any parent is unwilling to put the refusal in writing, the school should document that the request was made, but the parent would not put the refusal in writing.

This refusal will not avoid any consequences for not testing, such as failure to graduate.
The Washington Educational Research Association has published an overview of how to manage
parent/student refusals to take state assessments. This site also includes a template for documenting
refusals. For further information please refer to:

Because the number of students meeting, exceeding, or failing to meet the standards is based upon
enrollment, the percentages for the schools and districts are impacted by refusals. The significance
of the impact is proportional to the number of students who should be tested versus the number of those same students who were not tested for whatever reason. This aligns with the federal No
Child Left Behind legislation.


Po3 said...

High school students may not be opting out, but there is another interesting issue related to testing at the high school level.

Students not taking a HSPE test are not allowed in the building while testing is being conducted. This meant that last week students not being tested lost over three hours of class time.

How is that accounted for against the 1000 hours (or whatever the number is) as required by the state? Seems to me non-tested HS students are now under the 1000 mark.

Linh-Co said...

I heard Ingraham was doing some some pilot testing for Pearson. The school is promised $8 per student. I'm wondering if this is the SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment).

Anonymous said...

Linh-Co, Pearson is not involved in the Smarter Balanced assessments. I don't know anything about the $8 per student pilot testing, but it's not related to Smarter Balanced.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Linh-Co, the only school in SPS doing the Smarter Balanced field test is Roosevelt. Ballard was going to but when the test week got changed they bowed out.

I do find it interesting that the largest district in the state has just one high school participating when OPSI had asked for a certain percentage of 3-9th graders plus some 10/11th graders. But it was all volunteer by the districts.

Anonymous said...

How can you opt out of HSPE if it is required for graduation?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorry, I meant MSP. You can't for the HSPE. (I was operating when it was all just the WASL.)

Jannike Johnsen said...

I teach students with autism in a self contained setting. Testing can be really stressful for some of my students. According to what you just posted, I can't suggest to my parents that opting out is a possibility they can consider for their child to help with their anxiety around the test. How are parents to find out, then? It seems reasonable to me that this should be something I can consider bringing up if it is in the best interest of a student and impacts their functioning at school. How are parents finding out?