While some of us here in Virginia are ready to release for summer, many of us are still in the midst of SOL testing, remediation, and retakes. Those scores have become more and more important over the last several years as our school accreditation and teacher evaluations are tied to passing SOL scores. So what happens to those scores when one (or more) of your students "opt out?"
Let's start at the beginning and see what the Commonwealth of Virginia requires and how the 'opt out' option is provided for.
The Code of Virginia 8VAC20-131-30 states that:
"In kindergarten through eighth grade, where the administration of Virginia assessment program tests are required by the Board of Education, each student shall be expected to take the tests."Virginia law does not provide for students to 'opt out' of the SOL tests. But it does allow parents to refuse participation in SOL testing for their children.
What happens when a parent refuses SOL testing for their child?Virginia Board of Education regulations state that the following procedures should be followed within school divisions when parents refuse participation:
- The parents should be informed that their student’s score report will reflect a score of “0” for any test that is refused.
- The school is strongly encouraged to request a written statement from parents indicating the specific test(s) the parents refuse to have their student complete. The document should be maintained in the student’s file as a record of the decision.
- To account for the student, a test record for the refused test(s) is to be submitted for scoring with a Testing Status 51 coded to indicate the parent refusal.
What does this mean at the building level?
- Parents do not have to fill out school forms to refuse testing for their children (although some school divisions are requiring that) however, they should send a written request for the refusal.
- Parents can send in their request at any time before the test, even as late as the day of the test. Advance notification is not required.
- Parents can refuse one, some, or all tests.
What does the zero score mean for the school?
Typically, the student's zero score has been averaged in with all the other scores which could significantly effect an overall percentage, particularly in struggling schools. However, a bill (SB427) just passed the General Assembly this year which allows for up to 5% of a school's testing student's to 'opt out' and their zero scores will not be included. Any testing refusals over 5% would be included in the school average in order to meet federal guidelines requiring 95% of students are tested.
"The Board of Education shall not include in its calculation of the passage rate of a Standards of Learning assessment for the purposes of state accountability any student whose parent has decided to not have his child take such Standards of Learning assessment, unless such exclusions would result in the school's not meeting any required state or federal participation rate."
What does the zero score mean for the student?
- SOL scores can only be used as one of multiple criteria in the decision to retain a student. Retention cannot be based on SOL scores alone.
- SOL scores can not be used as part of a student's report card grade.
- Lack of SOL scores cannot prevent a student from participating in gifted programs, specialty centers, etc. Also, opting out of an SOL can not prevent a student from taking the next course in that subject.
- Students can not be required to attend summer school or weekend remediation classes solely based on failing a SOL test in science or history/social science.
- Students can not be prevented from participating in "SOL celebration" parties because they did not take the test.
Please note: This changes when students reach middle and high school. Students are required to pass certain SOLs in order to graduate. For advanced students, this begins in middle school when they may take several high school credit courses. Opting out of a high school level course that is required for graduation could result in student not receiving a diploma!
Additionally, in middle and high school, SOL scores can be used as a part of a student's grade. However, a student's grade cannot be negatively affected if a secondary student opts out or takes an alternative assessment.
Why do parents choose to refuse testing?
Some parents are in disagreement with the high stakes accreditation and teacher evaluation that is tied to test scores. They feel this has led to a "teach to the test" mentality and that authentic teaching and teacher autonomy has been compromised. They feel their voices will be more readily heard when state scores are artificially deflated through refusal. A kind of social protest to exact change.
Some parents refuse testing because of the more direct impact of stress and worry on their children. Some children have intense anxiety surrounding tests, especially high stakes tests.
Along those same lines, parents may opt out their special education student. All students take the grade level tests and when the student is working far below grade level as a result of a disability, parents may refuse testing to prevent the student from taking an inappropriate assessment.
Whatever the reason, it is within a parent's right to refuse testing and the school is required to honor that request. Please be careful about the information you share with parents concerning the consequences of opting out. Be sure that you are sharing correct information. Be informed!
If you have any questions concerning SOL test refusal, please feel free to contact me by email or message me on Facebook. I will be glad to answer or point you to the right document, agency, or person to help you.