Community Dialogues about “Opting Out” of State Assessments in Colorado
Through widespread “opt-out” efforts over the past several years, parent and student activists have pressured school districts, states, and the federal government to reconsider the extent and limits of state-mandated assessments. Critics of opting-out, however, argue that these efforts undermine the public value of collecting quality assessment data for all students, and the role these data play in addressing educational inequality. The opt-out movement thus raises long-standing questions about assessment and accountability in public education, as well as questions about the extent of parents’ and students’ rights to refuse aspects of public education. How do school leaders, parents, and students frame choices to opt-out of state assessments? What goals and values do they invoke in making these choices? How do educators and district leaders negotiate resistance to testing with state requirements, professional obligations, and concerns about equal opportunity? Our project examines how diverse stakeholders in school districts across Colorado make sense of emerging movements to opt students out of testing. Through community forums and deliberative dialogues, we explore the contested values and positions in debates about standards, accountability, and assessment in public education. Our project aims to offer resources and guidance to school leaders and teachers who are asked to respond to parent/student concerns about the purposes of testing in public education. In addition, we hope to provide a deliberative and thoughtful space for parents, students and community members to explore questions about the value and purpose of assessment in education.
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