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PARCC opt-out numbers down this year

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Resistance to the controversial PARCC test appears to have slowed in Albuquerque Public Schools.

This spring, 1,561 APS students refused to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers vs. 3,307 in 2015, the first time New Mexico required the exam. That translates to 3 percent of the roughly 50,000 eligible students skipping the test this year.

Overall, it has been a quiet testing season across the state. There were no large-scale anti-PARCC demonstrations, unlike last year, when more than 1,000 students walked out of their schools to protest the Common Core-aligned exams.

Opt-outs are down in most New Mexico districts. APS’ neighbor, Rio Rancho Public Schools, received around 50 refusals in 2016, compared with 160 in 2015.

Rose-Ann McKernan, executive director of the APS Office of Accountability and Reporting, believes families are feeling more comfortable with PARCC, which measures math and English Language Arts competency in grades 3-11.

“We heard a lot from the students last year that once they got in there and started taking the test, they found out it wasn’t as scary as they thought it was going to be,” she said.

APS, like Rio Rancho, asks parents to talk to a school administrator before they pull their child from testing, and McKernan believes those conversations can correct misconceptions.

Still, the Board of Education “feels strongly that parents have a right to make certain educational decisions for students, and the decision to participate in testing is one of those,” she said.

A number of board members have openly said that PARCC is too long, too difficult and too “high stakes” because results are tied to teachers’ evaluations.

This fall, with the board’s backing, APS administrators created an online “opt-out kit” in six languages, including Arabic and Farsi, which gives parents easy access to the information.

Other districts take a tougher approach on testing. Farmington and Las Cruces won’t allow students to opt out unless they have a valid medical reason. RRPS administrators permit “refusals” but don’t think there really is a right to pull children from exams.

PED spokesman Robert McEntyre said testing is critical because it provides “a more accurate picture of how kids are doing in school.”

“We’re pleased to see that more New Mexico students are getting their progress measured so we can identify those who are struggling and get them the help they need,” he wrote in an emailed statement.

National rates

A recent analysis from the Education Writers Association looked at the movement’s strength in 2015.

The EWA review, “Opt Out 2.0: Snapshot of Spring Testing Season,” cited data from the Council of the Great City Schools showing that nearly every large metropolitan area had about 1 percent of its students refuse testing in 2015.

Albuquerque, at around 6 percent in 2015, is among a handful of “notable exceptions” along with Rochester (20 percent), Buffalo (15 percent) and Portland, Ore. (3 percent).

New York and Oregon do not use PARCC – the analysis looked at testing data for whatever standardized exam the state administers.

An April report from Educational Testing Service, “Opt-Out: An Examination of Issues,” took a state-by-state look at 2015 opt-out rates and found the highest percentages in New York (20 percent), Rhode Island (11 percent) and Colorado (10.5 percent). New Mexico was at just under 5 percent.

ETS also explored the opt-out movement’s demographics and found that it is dominated by middle- or upper-class Anglo families.

In Albuquerque, Bandelier Elementary School, located in affluent Nob Hill, had the highest rate of test refusals at 30.84 percent, as well as the largest number overall, 95. Next by percentage was San Antonito Elementary School in Sandia Park at 24.69 percent and 40 overall, then Monte Vista Elementary School near the University of New Mexico campus, 24.42 percent and 63 overall.

ETS mentions a 2015 Gallup poll that reveals very different views of testing across racial lines.

The survey showed that 55 percent of Anglo parents “considered test scores either very or somewhat important for measuring the effectiveness of their community schools,” compared with 61 percent of Hispanic parents and 72 percent of black parents.

“The summary above should make clear that opt out is a complicated, politically charged issue made more so by its social class and racial/ethnic associations,” the ETS report concludes.

2016 PARCC opt-outs by school

A. Montoya Elementary School 5
Acoma Elementary School 2
Adobe Acres Elementary School 4
Alvarado Elementary School 5
Apache Elementary School 8
Armijo Elementary School 14
Arroyo Del Oso Elementary School 13
Atrisco Heritage Academy
High School
Bandelier Elementary School 95
Barcelona Elementary School 2
Bel-Air Elementary School 1
Bellehaven Elementary School 2
Carlos Rey Elementary School 5
Chamiza Elementary School 32
Chaparral Elementary School 17
Chelwood Elementary School 13
Cleveland Middle School 36
Cochiti Elementary School 11
Collet Park Elementary School 5
Comanche Elementary School 6
Corrales Elementary School 18
Desert Ridge Middle School 2
Desert Willow Family School 14
Dolores Gonzales Elementary School 9
Double Eagle Elementary School 11
Early College Academy 5
Edward Gonzales Elementary School 19
Eisenhower Middle School 30
Eldorado High School 21
Emerson Elementary School 1
Eugene Field Elementary School 7
Garfield Middle School 17
George I. Sanchez Collaborative
Community School
Georgia O’Keeffe Elementary School 21
Governor Bent Elementary School 5
Grant Middle School 25
Griegos Elementary School 9
Hayes Middle School 6
Highland High School 6
Hodgin Elementary School 2
Homebound 3
Hoover Middle School 62
Hubert H. Humphrey
Elementary School
Inez Elementary School 8
Jackson Middle School 4
James Monroe Middle School 41
Jefferson Middle School 77
Jimmy Carter Middle School 1
John Adams Middle School 16
John Baker Elementary School 2
Kennedy Middle School 10
L.B. Johnson Middle School 72
La Cueva High School 11
La Luz Elementary School 3
Lavaland Elementary School 6
Lew Wallace Elementary School 13
Longfellow Elementary School 5
Los Ranchos Elementary School 1
MacArthur Elementary School 3
Madison Middle School 1
Manzano High School 14
Manzano Mesa Elementary School 13
Marie M. Hughes Elementary School 35
Mark Twain Elementary School 12
Mary Ann Binford
Elementary School
Matheson Park Elementary School 5
McCollum Elementary School 9
McKinley Middle School 7
Mission Avenue Elementary School 2
Mitchell Elementary School 4
Monte Vista Elementary School 63
Montezuma Elementary School 37
North Star Elementary School 5
Onate Elementary School 1
Osuna Elementary School 20
Pajarito Elementary School 2
Petroglyph Elementary School 1
Polk Middle School 7
Roosevelt Middle School 10
Rudolfo Anaya Elementary School 6
San Antonito Elementary School 40
Sandia Base Elementary School 3
Sandia High School 8
Seven Bar Elementary School 23
Sierra Vista Elementary School 9
Sombra Del Monte
Elementary School
Sunset View Elementary School 16
Susie Rayos Marmon
Elementary School
SY Jackson Elementary School 11
Taft Middle School 76
Taylor Middle School 38
Tierra Antigua Elementary School 43
Tomasita Elementary School 3
Valle Vista Elementary School 1
Valley High School 1
Ventana Ranch Elementary School 13
Washington Middle School 27
West Mesa High School 1
Wherry Elementary School 3
Wilson Middle School 66
Zia Elementary School 31
Zuni Elementary School 9