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High School Principals Group Takes Stand Against Testing Opt-Outs

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The National Association of Secondary School Principals announced Wednesday that it opposes state and district policies that permit parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.

The statement was adopted by the NASSP's board of directors, and announced as the organization's annual meeting convened, in Orlando. The group will now solicit public comment on it before formal adoption planned for November.

The issue is a hot one, since opposition to standardized testing, and opting out of tests, has been rising. The new Every Student Succeeds Act still requires states to test 95 percent of students, however, and the U.S. Department of Education has warned them that they need to have a plan to deal with opt-out rates that endanger that participation rate.

The position paper says that despite a rise in opt-out activity, fueled by the view that students spend too much time taking tests, schools get a lot of valuable information from assessment results. Even a few students sitting out the test could alter those results, the statement cautions.

"The NASSP believes that assessments must be varied, an integral part of the learning process, and used regularly to ensure that instruction promotes student success," the statement says.

JoAnn Bartoletti, the NASSP's executive director, said in a prepared statement that the "amplified political discourse about high-stakes accountability and overtesting" has allowed the organization's leaders to hear how much educators "value data from state tests to help them understand how their students are developing crucial skills." 

"We certainly recognize that students spend far too much time in testing and test prep, and that scores are often misused and misapplied," she said. "But we prefer to address those issues directly instead of encouraging families to abandon the tests completely."

The NASSP recommends that instead of permitting opt-outs, schools and districts could first conduct audits of the layers of tests they require to see if any reductions are possible. State and federal policymakers could help by delaying the linking of test scores to high-stakes consequences such as teacher evaluations, and encouraging states to use multiple measures, instead of just one standardized test, to gather important information about student learning, the NASSP says.

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