- Under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, states will face sanctions including reduced or withheld federal funding if more than 5% of their K-12 student population opts out of standardized testing.
- States at risk of going over the limit include Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin, Delaware, North Carolina, Idaho, Colorado, California, Connecticut, Maine, and Illinois; New York surpassed the allowance last year with a 20% opt-out rate.
- In December, the U.S. Department of Education sent a formal letter to state education leaders, warning them about the possible penalties that could be incurred should enough students shy away from standardized testing.
Because the national opt-out movement continues to grow, district leaders and school officials need to pay close attention to their percentages. For those states with particularly vibrant movements opposed to standardized testing, a significant amount of federal aid could be at stake.
Colorado and Washington have historically high rates of students opting out. In spring 2015, half of Washington state’s high school juniors opted out of mandated state tests, with some districts topping 70% non-participation.
A recent Chalkbeat Colorado survey found that five of the state's 20 largest school districts had enough students participate in math and English testing this year to meet the federal participation requirement. In Boulder, a notoriously liberal suburban district, 78% of students opted out.
A recent survey by District Administration shows that 39% of school staffers and district leaders believe that more students will opt out this year.
It’s important for school, district, and state leaders to understand the opt-out numbers because they can increase swiftly. In New York, where one in five students now opts out of taking standardized tests, the number quadrupled over the course of just one year. That led to a reported $1.1 billion in federal aid being threatened. Last year, the state's education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, began work to create a toolkit for districts to use in responding to testing opt-outs.
Wealthier suburban districts also tend to have higher opt-out rates, as opposed to poorer urban or suburban districts with less refusals. That may be, in part, due to administrators for disadvantaged districts being more acutely aware of accountability metrics, and therefore offering more encouragement to students and families around participating in standardized testing.