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Elite High School Students Rejecting Common Core Tests

LOS ANGELES — Half of the students in their junior year at four affluent high schools in California–Gunn, Palo Alto, Palos Verdes and Calabasas–have chosen to ignore the Smarter Balanced Assessments, the tests based on Common Core that premiere at California high schools this spring. At Westmoor High School in Daly City, where over one-third of students are low-income, 40% of the juniors also opted out.

Bob Schaeffer, a spokesman for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, explained to EdSource that in California, students can opt out legally, adding, “It is not civil disobedience in California because it’s legally authorized. So it’s not been seen as an organizing tool in the same way (as in some other states).”

Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, told EdSource, “We’ve heard from almost every state in the country there’s opting out going on. Last year, we probably heard from half.” In New York, 200,000 students have opted out with the support of teachers unions.

The opt-out argument in Calabasas and Palos Verdes was initiated by Common Core opponents, who alerted students about parent exemptions, but then spread among 11th-graders who had their own reasons for skipping the tests.

Meanwhile, Common Core opponents are organizing efforts to educate students and parents about avoiding the tests

As a result of the No Child Left Behind law, the federal government requires that 95% of students take state tests; schools that receive Title 1 funds that do not meet that mark can trigger harsh sanctions. Because Title 1 funds flow to schools with low-income students, the four affluent high schools will not be sanctioned, but Westmoor High, comprised of roughly 37% low-income students, could be hit with sanctions.

Sophia Sherry, a spokeswoman for U.S. News & World Report, said the publication might bar the four affluent schools from its future rankings of best high schools because the test scores would be unavailable.

According to the Barclays Official California Code of Regulations, “A parent or guardian may annually submit to the school a written request to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of any test provided pursuant to Education Code section 60640 for the school year. If a parent or guardian submits an exemption request after testing has begun, any test(s) completed before the request is submitted will be scored and the results reported to the parent or guardian and included in the pupil’s records.”

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