Repercussions for districts and students who opt out of state tests

APRIL 11, 2016 – Parents Opt Out of Georgia Milestones
Kay Draper Hutchinson, a former school counselor, recently published these thoughts and instructions on how to opt out of the Georgia Milestones.

MAY 15, 2014 – Georgia’s movement to opt out of high stakes tests gains momentum
A small but increasingly vocal group of parents in Georgia are urging state leaders to give their children the choice to “opt out” of taking the high-stakes tests in schools without being penalized for doing so.


School administrators ask students to take the Georgia Milestones

standardized testing
Georgia Legislation

Last year the state did not enforce Georgia statute requiring grade level performance on the state standardized tests for graduation or promotion to the next grade in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades. It is unclear if the state will waive those requirements again.

While school district administrators want to serve the public, they must also follow the law. The path of least resistance is to encourage students and parents to not opt out of the Georgia Milestones standardized tests.

Tim Jarboe, director of assessment and accountability for the Clarke County School District, makes a plea to the public to not opt out of the Georgia Milestones.

In Georgia, state law has authorized heavy penalties for those who don’t take the tests, according to Jarboe.

Laws are changing, but for now, the old rules remain in effect.

In high school, the so-called “Georgia Milestones” end-of-course tests count as final exams, and are worth 20 percent of the course grade, Jarboe told a recent meeting of the Clarke County Parent Advisory Board.

If students don’t take the test, they lose those points, and “such a student would receive a grade that does not reflect his or her true achievement,” Jarboe said.
In elementary and middle schools, students in grades 3, 5 and 8 who opt out of testing in reading and math are counted as failing, though parents can appeal.

Opting out can also affect the scores teachers, administrators and schools get in a grading system the state has instituted, Jarboe said.

Test scores count for 50 percent of a teacher’s grade and 70 percent of an administrators’ grade; students opting out of testing could affect those scores either up or down, depending on whether the students opting out might have scored high or low on the Milestones.

And schools where fewer than 95 percent of students take a test can’t get any “achievement points” from the state in that particular subject area. Those achievement points are part of a complex formula the state uses to gauge how well schools are performing, called the “College and Career Ready Performance Index,” or CCRPI.

“Low CCRPI scores can lead to the federal designation as a “Focus” or “Priority” school, which creates a layer of mandates that the school is required to implement or can lead to the placement on the “Opportunity School District” list if the OSD constitutional amendment is passed next November,” Jarboe wrote in an email.

Neither the Georgia Department of Education nor the local board of education has the authority to waive the testing requirements set forth by the legislature, Jarboe said.

School principals will work with parents who want to opt their children out, he said.

“Public school leaders are literally ‘caught in the middle’ as they are technically required to follow federal and state mandates in regards to student participation in state testing programs and working with parents to honor the parent’s concern about the socio-emotional welfare of their children and how high-stakes testing affects their child,” Jarboe said. “Our principals work very hard to make sure that the decision about testing does not negatively affect the child.”

And according to the Georgia Department of Education website, it’s important for students to take the standardized tests:

“State tests are critical for measuring student learning and ensuring that all of Georgia’s students receive a high-quality education,” according to the Georgia DOE. “The results from state tests provide the public with much needed information about how all students are performing. Student test scores are the foundation of Georgia’s College and Career Readiness Index (CCRPI) and district/school report cards, which are designed to show parents, taxpayers, communities, and school leaders how well students are achieving. Allowing for comparisons between districts and schools is important given the amount of public tax dollars spent to support Georgia’s public education system.”

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