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Saturday, September 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Juniors opt out of new assessment tests at high rate in Spokane area

Local students who opted out of Washington’s new assessment tests likely did so because of exam fatigue, not because of furor over Common Core standards, school officials say.

Numbers released last week by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction show that roughly 90 percent of students statewide took the Smarter Balanced assessment this spring, a new test crafted around federal standards for achievement in math and language arts. Local school districts, including Spokane Public Schools and Central Valley School District, showed similar participation.

Parents were allowed to excuse their children from the testing. This was most pronounced among high school juniors, according to the numbers released July 9. Roughly 1 in 5 juniors at Spokane Public Schools opted not to take the math and language arts tests, while about 30 percent of their counterparts at Central Valley skipped the exams.

Those numbers were significantly higher than students in other grade levels. Participation among students in grades 3 through 10 eclipsed 99 percent, for the most part.

Steven Gering of Spokane Public Schools said the class of 2016 found itself caught in a testing loop. Most had already taken the Smarter Balanced test last year and had recently completed advanced placement tests when the assessments were administered this spring, he said.

“We’ve never had opt-out numbers like that, and we’re way below the statewide average,” Gering said. In fact, a majority of Washington’s high school juniors did not take the tests, which are split into math and language arts. Only 47 percent of high school juniors statewide took the Smarter Balanced assessments this year.

The Smarter Balanced tests, administered entirely on computer, will not become required for high school graduation until 2019, said Marla Nunberg, Central Valley School District spokeswoman.

“I think in the future, you’ll see a lot more students taking the test,” she said.

With many juniors this year already passing their end-of-course exams or achieving passing grades on the Smarter Balanced test last year, there was little incentive for an individual student to take the test, Gering said.

“The new exam is really about college readiness,” Gering said. The exams currently administered in 10th grade that are required for graduation measured high school proficiency, he said. In the future, schools will shift toward using a student’s senior year to prepare them for the rigors of college.

While Washington and Idaho have formally adopted the Common Core standards, other states have withheld approval or even overturned policies adopting the framework. Supporters say they help make sure students are prepared for college. But critics say the standards attempt to create a blanket federal policy for public education, ignores certain subjects like computer science and the humanities, and make it more difficult for teachers to employ different learning strategies in the classroom.

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