A gigantic 79% of OHS Juniors opted out of the SBAC testing this month! Roughly the same percentage of Juniors opted out at Capital High. Since the SBAC is not a graduation requirement for the class of 2016, most Juniors felt no internal motivation to endure the twelve grueling hours of testing.
However, the school and district administration were not going to take this. Though it is difficult to discern exactly which administration was responsible for which threat, each student choosing to opt out of the test was required to sign an ominous letter threatening eligibility for English Language Learner’s programs and remedial testing waivers, and placing a quasi-reduction of school funding on the students’ shoulders. In this, students opting out received a zero on the exam which dramatically decreasing the school’s testing average. Administration feared that an overall lower test score average for OHS–thanks to the opt-outs–meant less funds available to our school.
The reality, however, is that OHS and the district will not lose any overall funding due to low test scores. The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools with low scores only to “freeze” a small portion of the total budget until January. NCLB requires those funds be made available for student who request tutoring. This was actually done this past year, since Washington state was out of compliance with NCLB. In January, our district was free to use those funds. So, school funding is not LOST due to students opting out.
Students were threatened with a mark on their “permanent record” if they refused to take the test. What, exactly is a permanent record? The truth is, the only high school “record” seen by colleges is a student’s transcript. SBAC scores do not show up on your transcript. The administration must be talking about your internal school files. These files do not leave the district, and will not likely impact your post-OHS future.
OHS Juniors are varied on their reasons for not taking the test. Junior Ellie Schaefer stated, “I’m against standardized testing in general. This is no exception.” Junior Krishna Upudhyayula thinks the SBAC is “totally unnecessary” after the many standardized tests her class has taken.
Junior Arkira Chantaratananond stated, “I feel like it was my responsibility to [take the SBAC] and there were so few Juniors taking it that I didn’t want to hurt the schools funding and reputation by…opting out. [However] It’s not that I’m for standardized testing because who wants to take tests for two million hours.” Other students ended up taking the SBAC because they missed the deadline to turn in the opt-out form.
Unlike the students in other grades who were not taking the test, OHS Juniors opting out of the test were required to sit in the PAC during testing hours, or needed to have their parents call in with a medical excuse. Juniors did not do this, they would be marked as with unexcused absence, and receive lunch detention or worse. During these two hours, some students in the PAC completed homework, but others spent their time in boredom or recreationally. Junior Zach Teply boasted, “I played nothing but Smash Bros. for the past three days,” and Junior Jeremy Sawyer stated that card games were all the rage. While stuck in the PAC, Junior Domi Meyer said, “It’s a stupid hell. It’s like, come sit and stare at the walls,” and Shaefer added, “They found a new way to shove all of us inside a box.” Thanks to the cramped, shoulder-to-shoulder feeling of the theater seats, Junior Michael Nguyen stated, “It felt like doing your homework in a bus.”
One anonymous Tennis player stated, “Athletes are [ticked]. We have to sit in here just to keep playing.” That’s because District policy is that if you miss school-time, you can’t do sports that day. Even students who took the test and happened to complete all test sections a day early were required to come to school on the third test day and stay in the PAC. Chantaratananond thinks, “It’s really dumb for kids who are done to be punished like this.”
The letter sent to all Juniors at OHS policy states, “In order to be in compliance with OSD practices and procedures across the district, these are regular school days for the Junior class and attendance will be taken.” Yet, across town at CHS, according to a Capital counselor and a Capital teacher, their opt-out students were not penalized with an in-house holding area. They were allowed to stay home with the Freshman, Sophomores and Seniors. Clearly these procedures are not applied across the district. At CHS, only 22% of Juniors took the SBAC.