Test stress

Students opt-out of PARCC testing

Count 326 students out.

As of March 2, these students chose not to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test—an endeavor supported by Action for Mason Education co-head Kenna O’Sullivan.

“Ideally I would love to see all students opt-out,” O’Sullivan said. “The freshmen have to all be aware that there are three paths. If they don’t go the PARCC and (End of Course exam) pathway, they have to be able to earn the required score on the other test options, the ACT, SAT or the ACT WorkKeys.”

The WorkKeys measures skills desired by employers as an alternative to the ACT and SAT route, but according to O’Sullivan, the PARCC test is not a viable pathway due to its subjective cut scores, or the lowest possible score required to pass.

“They’re not going to determine cut scores until after the tests are graded, and they can set them however they want,” O’Sullivan said. “Even if we have a group of kids who do well, they can set them so high that they don’t do well…It’s not a scientifically validated test.”

While opting-out relieves strain for students, it adds strain for the district: students who refuse to test will receive a zero when calculating Mason’s ranking, said associate superintendent Amy Spicher.

“The (Performance Index) is calculated using every student’s performance level (advanced, accelerated, proficient, etc.) on every state test,” Spicher said. “Last year we had .1% of our students who were untested, and this year we have approximately 4.5% of our students who are refusing to test who will receive a zero.”

This will reduce the district’s score, Spicher said, and put it in jeopardy of being unable to attain testing enrollment percentages required by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

“A district has to have a participation rate of 95% of students in each of the 10 student groups—all, race, gender, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and English Language Learners,” Spicher said. “We may not reach that this year.”

Should Mason fail to meet these requirements, the district could be subject to expenditure restrictions from the ODE. Opt-out decisions also affect teachers: according to Spicher, Mason will adopt the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System in 2015-2016. 50% of teacher evaluations will be based on student growth, and the progress of students who opt-out will not be included.

According to O’Sullivan, however, Action for Mason Education does not wish to harm the district but return control to it.

“We’re not doing this against the teachers or the district,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re doing this for them, too. Because we have a great district, and we have great teachers, (and) we have great administrators. We want them making the decisions, not politicians.”

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