Utah’s public schools are poised to take a hit from parents who excuse their children from year-end tests.
After its series of requests for flexibility from federal education laws were denied, the Utah Board of Education has agreed to count opt-outs as students who took tests but failed in order to achieve a minimum participation rate of 95 percent.
That means schools with high numbers of students who opt-out of assessments — including many charter schools and some school districts — could see their performance ratings plummet, as those children are awarded zero points for the purpose of accountability calculations. The ratings are used in programs like Title 1, school grading and school turnaround efforts.
The change in policy is part of Utah’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which mandates that at least 95 percent of students participate in annual testing in grades three through eight and at least once in high school. Utah’s plan was approved Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education, following several delays as the state requested and failed to receive a waiver from the participation requirements, or a one-year reprieve from ESSA’s mandate.
“Utah’s plan provides strategies to engage school communities in continuous improvement on behalf of each student,” state superintendent Sydnee Dickson said in a prepared statement. “We are committed to increasing equity and access to educational excellence in our schools and supporting our educators as they work to close achievement gaps.”