This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
In a sign that the opt-out movement continues to grow, the number of elementary school students who refused to take Pennsylvania’s state standardized tests rose dramatically over the last two years.
From 2013-14 to 2014-15, opt-outs on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment math test more than tripled – from 1,017 students to 3,270. That’s a 220 percent jump.
In the same years, PSSA English language arts opt-outs jumped 139 percent – from 1,355 to 3,245.
Opt-outs on the science test jumped 263 percent – from 309 to 1,123.
These are the largest jumps in nine years of available data.
These numbers, though, actually account only for parents who formally opted out. The state also counts students whose parents refused to have them take the test without going through the opt-out process.
When both categories are combined, the increases are starker in math and English.
Between 2013-14 and 2014-15, the PSSA math test saw total exclusions jump by 240 percent – from 1,292 to 4,394.
Likewise, the PSSA English language arts test saw total exclusions jump 155 percent – from 1,789 to 4,567.
Total exclusions on the science test jumped 258 percent – from 456 to 1,635.
"It’s a recognition that there’s already substantial concern among some parents about the climate with standardized testing," said Adam Schott, director of policy research at Research for Action. "And so it’s just important that policymakers be attentive going forward."
Opt-out numbers for the Keystone exam taken by high schoolers were not yet available.
Although the PSSA opt-out increases are high, total exclusions represent an extremely small fraction of the state’s students.