PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Since April, the number of exempted students for the Smarter Balanced test at Portland Public Schools jumped from 5% of test takers to 8%. About one in seven high school juniors is skipping the test.
State law says parents can keep their kids from taking the test for religious reasons or due to disability. The Smarter Balanced test is meant to measure whether kids are meeting challenging Common Core standards adopted in 2010
Whether or not students take the test, the test itself is not tied in any way to any school funding, nor will it affect the school’s rating this year.
“Participation isn’t tied to funding at the school level,” said Crystal Green with the Oregon Department of Education. “It’s simply a means of getting valuable feedback about how students are performing and how well the school is doing and the district is doing in ensuring students are gaining that knowledge and skills that they need to be successful down the line.”
She told KOIN 6 News this is a transition year with the new statewide assessments in English, language arts and math.
“Because we’re in this transition, the report cards that come out every October for schools around the state will not have an overall rating,” she said. “There will still be info about students performance about programs at the school, but the overall rating will not be included.”
In the past, if a school’s participation rate on standardized testing fell below 95%, their yearly report card would drop one level of a 5-level scale, she said.
“Our expectation is that in the future it will return to that model where the report card rating would be impacted by low participation,” she said. “The purpose for that is to ensure that the ratings are truly reflective of the student performance at the school so that adjustments can be made to help target resources and energy to improve student opportunities and outcomes.”
If a school’s rating goes down, school leaders would talk with their community about the reasons why and what they plan to do about it.
“When students don’t participate in the test in high numbers that impacts how reflective the results are and how much we can use those to inform our policies our programmatic decisions,” Green said.
The opt-out rate for the standardized tests vary across the state, she said.
“Our hope is schools and communities can have conversations about any concerns parents have around the test and be able to address those those so students can participate.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.