PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – There is no formal policy for students to opt out of taking Rhode Island’s new standardized test later this year, but Department of Education officials said Tuesday students aren’t legally required to participate in the exam.
The department fully expects most students to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, just as they would with any test given in schools every day, according to deputy commissioner Dave Abbott and Mary Ann Snider, RIDE’s chief of educator excellence and instructional effectiveness.
One distinct difference, however, is that when students refuse to take an algebra quiz, a failing score can be damaging to their final grades. PARCC scores will not be used for class grades, but school officials say the results do end up on high school transcripts for colleges to see.
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By refusing to take the PARCC, “you are missing your opportunity for an academic checkup,” Snider told reporters Tuesday. She and Abbott said they consider a student’s participation to be part of an “implicit social contract” parents sign when they enroll their children in public schools.
Snider and Abbott said they have received questions about the PARCC exam after the The Providence Journal published an op-ed titled “Students can opt out of new tests in R.I.”
The piece, written by a retired teacher who worked at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf, quotes a department official explaining that no law requires student participation. The op-ed failed to explain that there is no state law requiring students to take any school exam.
In March, all of Rhode Island’s K-12 public schools will begin administering the PARCC exam as a replacement for the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test. Snider and Abbott said the exam is reflective of the Common Core State Standards and better aligned with the school year because students will be tested on subjects they have learned throughout the year. Students previously took the NECAP in October following a long summer vacation.
Rhode Island is one of 13 states and Washington, D.C., that are on PARCC’s active governing board. Some states have said they will allow students to opt out of taking the test. In Colorado, the state Board of Education voted last week to provide waivers to local districts that want to opt out of part of the exam.
Some policymakers have argued that allowing a large group of students or entire district to skip the exam could run afoul of federal education laws, which require schools to test 95% of all students in order to ensure schools are making “adequate yearly progress.”
In Rhode Island, results on the PARCC exam will eventually be included as part of the state’s high school graduation requirements, although education officials expect that portion of the policy to be pushed back until the class of 2020.
Abbott said it is too soon to say what would happen if a student graduating in the class of 2020 refused to take the PARCC exam.