- On Wednesday, New York state education officials announced that 20% of students in grades three though eight opted not to take state tests this year — four times as many as opted out last year.
- In total, more than 200,000 students chose not to take the exams, with most opt-outs taking place outside of New York City proper.
- Some districts saw opt-out rates as high as 89%; in others, especially in poorer districts, the numbers hovered below 5%, which was the state average last year and the federally mandated bar for participation.
New York's numbers lend credence to a sense that the opt-out or anti-testing movement is gaining steam.
"We're getting the general public to understand that there are valid concerns about testings, and about the curriculum, and the direction where N.Y.S.E.D. is going. And that's a good thing," Loy Gross, co-founder of United to Counter the Core, told the New York Times.
States like Colorado and Washington have also posted high rates of testing refusal, especially in high school. In those other states, a similar pattern of where students refuse testing has emerged; wealthier suburban districts tend to have higher rates, while poorer urban or suburban districts have low ones. That may be because administrators in the accountability-aware poor districts are more active in encouraging students and families to participate.
If participation rates drop in poorer districts, it could stoke fears among some civil rights advocates that education failings will escape attention.
"Without an annual testing program, the progress of our neediest students may be ignored or forgotten, leaving these students to fall further behind," Merryl H. Tisch, a prominent figure in the New York education world, said in a statement after the opt out rates were released. "This cannot happen."
In Congress, some Democrats have defended testing in a rewrite of No Child Left Behind that's currently in limbo, in order to make sure schools are ensuring the success of disadvantaged students.