Ohio students won't be penalized for opting out of Common Core-based tests

COLUMBUS — Students and school districts won’t face penalties for opting out of Common Core-based tests.
The Ohio House and Senate passed an emergency measure to protect students and school districts. Because it was an emergency measure it takes affect immediately.
WCPO Education Reporter Bob Driehaus reported last weekend that schools and students were concerned about penalties for those who opted out of the tests.
The bill prohibits school districts from using individual test scores to hold students back, grant additional course credit or exempt them from end-of-course exams. This only applies to tests taken in the 2014-15 academic year.
However, third-grade students must still pass the Ohio Achievement Test to advance to the fourth grade, as prescribed by a previous state initiative.
School districts also receive relief. The bill keeps the Department of Education from grading, ranking or penalizing districts or charter schools for test performance this academic year.
Without the bill if a student opted out of a standardized test, his or her score would go on the books as a zero. That would hurt the student and sway school and district averages.
Tracey Carson, a spokeswoman for Mason City Schools, said that scenario could unfairly hurt a school district’s profile. The result could be an lower school ratings, which might lead to families avoiding moving into that district.
“The report card and the performance index are visible benchmarks that we’re concerned could be skewed,” Carson said.
Now, the bill shields districts from poor performance reports for the first year while district officials navigate the new system and political debate rages on.
The act does not protect a school district from losing federal funding. No Child Left Behind requires that 95 percent of a school’s students take English and math tests or face a financial penalty.
Mason lingers dangerously close to that line. So far 4.5 percent of Mason students have opted out.
Despite a looming funding hit, Carson said Mason will continue to support its parents’ right to choose.
Bradley W. Parks is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter @Bradley_W_Parks.
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