Inside Boulder’s Opt Out Movement

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Two weeks ago CU’s Board of Education and Office of Outreach held an open discussion on the pros and cons of opting out of standardized tests. They had many panelists in order to talk about the importance and concerns of the PARCC test, which is given to grades 3-8 as well as high schoolers.


One of the panelists was CU Boulder sophomore, Sydney Chinowsky, who during her senior year at Fairview High School led a protest against standardized tests. The high schoolers were fed up when they heard they had to take the CMAS test, after already haven taken the SATS, ACTS, AP and IB exams the same year. So instead of taking the test they organized a protest, held a canned food and school supplies drive, and wrote letters to their state congressman to show how productive they could be with their time if they weren’t taking the test. They ended up being successful resulting in the Colorado Legislature getting rid of the CMAS.

However, the joy was short-lived because during the next testing season the new online standardized test, PARCC, was introduced. It covers language arts, literacy and math skills. The tests are taken online and often in smaller groups due to a lack of computers, which Chinowsky thinks takes away from class time “because while students are being taken out of class you can’t really teach any material because people will be missing.”

This is leading to ongoing concerns that kids are taking too many tests and missing out on much needed class time. Hence the reason why many Boulder Valley School District Parents are deciding to opt their children out of the test. One concerned BVSD parent, Liz Weiss, also thinks that “they just add a lot of extra stress that [my daughter] doesn’t really need right now in fourth grade.”

Michele S Moses School of Education Michele.Moses@Colorado.EDU (Photo/Larry Harwood)

Michele S Moses

Michele Moses, Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, facilitated the discussion on Opting Out of standardized tests, and believes it is very important to test students every year, “because what that gives us is access to important comparative data.” However as more students decide to opt out, the more that data is starting to become skewed. Moses also understands parents concerns with the tests taking up too much school time and giving students unneeded anxiety, which is why she thinks “there definitely could be improvements to those systems.”

Some suggestions for improving the system made at the Opt Out meeting include:

1. Not testing every single student every year in every subject.

2. Revising the test itself.

3. Not having high stake consequences be associated with students who don’t take the test (i.e. having a teachers merit based raise be determined by how their students perform on the test).

Most people in Boulder do not seem to be completely against standardized tests, as it is clear from the Opt Out discussion that the community just wants reforms on it. In fact Chinowsky doesn’t think “permanently opting out is a solution, [she] just hopes that they take [this information] and start to improve the exams and then people won’t have to opt out anymore.” It is unclear whether reforms will be made to these tests anytime soon, but it is clear that people’s voice are definitely being heard thanks to the Opt Out Movement.

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