- In a survey of district officials conducted by Chalkbeat Colorado, just 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 of 95%.
- This year was the first under a new Common Core-aligned testing regimen and most districts reported a steep decrease in opt-outs from the 99% average participation rate in 2014.
- Two of the largest districts, Denver and Jefferson County, did not report results.
Over the past year, students in several Colorado districts have taken to the streets to protest standardized testing. Last fall, the state conducted the first round of science and social studies testing aligned to new state standards. During that round, opt-outs in the suburban district of Boulder were as high as 78%, with most large districts hovering in the 7% opt-out range. In part as a response to the overwhelming backlash, the legislature has committed to cutting back on testing, including eliminating the state’s social studies tests.
A study of New York state opt-outs conducted earlier this year by the Brookings Institution found that opt-outs were more prevalent in low-poverty school districts, as well as in ones with high test scores. That pattern seems to have held in Colorado, where many of the state’s large low-poverty districts reporting high opt-out rates and the ones that met the federal participation standard tending to be higher poverty districts.
It's not yet clear what actions the U.S. Department of Education plans to take in response to opt-outs. There are some signs of hope for districts with low test participation: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made statements suggesting the response may not as severe as feared and it's possible that a No Child Left Behind reauthorization could provide a respite from sanctions.