BY: Citizens Count
HB 1338, a bill which recently passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate Education Committee, would allow parents to opt their children out of statewide standardized tests for any reason without a penalty.
The bill also specifies that the state Department of Education and Board of Education cannot penalize any school or district for having a lower rate of participation in testing.
Similar laws have been passed in several states.
However, state legislation cannot restrict the U.S. Education Department from sanctioning schools that slip below the 95% participation rate required by federal guidelines. Possible penalties could include withholding of federal funding.
Supporters of the legislation argue that parents should have a right to exempt their children from exams if they believe the tests might be harmful or represent bad educational practice. They further argue that school results aren't harmed by lower rates of participation, and the federal government has yet to cut any funding for schools with low participation rates.
Opponents counter that rising opt-out rates would hurt those students who do participate in exams, as schools or districts are at risk for losing needed federal dollars. They also note that lower participation will compromise the quality of data on school performance, as well as make it more difficult to identify subject areas where an individual child might be struggling and need more help.