Less than one percent of students in Alabama’s public schools opted out of taking standardized tests in Alabama for the 2014-2015 school year, according to numbers released by the Alabama State Department of Education today.
Spokesperson Malissa Valdes-Hubert said the numbers were “surveyed” and “unofficial”, but it’s the first look we’ve had at these numbers statewide.
Here are the numbers of students who opted out of each of the following tests, statewide.
ACT Aspire (grades 3-8) – 281
ACT with writing (grade 11) – 89
ACT WorkKeys (grade 12) – 336
For perspective, here were the numbers of students enrolled statewide, though not all students were eligible to be tested:
ACT Aspire, grades 3 through 8: 335,332
3rd grade: 56,007
4th grade: 55,479
5th grade: 55,265
6th grade: 54,859
7th grade: 56,251
8th grade: 57,471
ACT with writing, 11th grade: 52,150
ACT WorkKeys, 12th grade: 49,929
State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice had this to say about Alabama’s low opt-out numbers: “I am pleased that the vast majority of parents appreciate Alabama’s approach to student assessment — the least amount of time for an accepted measure of college and career readiness unlike the states where opt out began. All we want to know from our assessments is whether we have students on a continual growth trajectory to increase their choices after high school and what instructional improvements do we need to make for that to be a reality.”
He added that there are representatives from three other states visiting the state department who are “considering to follow our lead”.
In New York, nearly 20% of students opted out, causing confusion over whether the results were skewed by the high percentage of non-test takers, who tended to be enrolled in white middle- to upper-middle class districts, according to education officials there.
When asked why the opt out movement doesn’t seem to have taken hold in Alabama, Thomas Rains, Policy Director for A+ Education Partnership, offered this explanation: “I think it’s due to a few factors. Parents in Alabama are now getting honest feedback about where their students stand as they make their way toward real life after graduation, and that’s really meaningful for them. Second, using a known and trusted organization like ACT gives real credibility to these tests, and other states may be struggling with not having that benefit–even though it was the states themselves that created the other tests.”
“Finally, these reasons together have probably prevented any meaningful opt-out ‘movement’ from gaining traction here, so we’re not seeing a bandwagon effect like what may be happening in New York.”
ACT Aspire results have been released to school districts but will not be made public until some time in November.
This story was updated at 6:01 p.m. to add Dr. Bice’s response. This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. on August 22 to add Thomas Rains’ response.