Monday, August 24, 2015

Did Opting Out Have Any Effect?

I've been irritatedly waiting for some enterprising reporter to do an analysis of the effects of opting out on the 2015 test scores, if only to settle a bet. I was absolutely sure that test scores would go down, because I was convinced that Opt Out was a classist collusion of soccer parents of gifted children with no clue or caring about the original intent of 3-8 testing as a means of determining whether students of color, students in poverty, or students with disabilities were being underserved by their schools. Paul was sure that scores would go up, because he felt that parents of kids who regularly did poorly on standardized tests would be the ones to keep their kids home, in an attempt to bolster their otherwise potentially diminished self-esteem.

Leaving aside how boring our marital spats are, or how obnoxious it is to attempt to second-guess the motivations of other parents, I was pretty surprised when I finally gave up on locating any enterprising reporters and ran my own numbers.

I took the Syracuse paper's nice informational database and drew some quickie graphs. I selected two schools for which I had opt-out data: Dryden and Lansing. In both districts, Opt Out was minimal in 2014 and between 20 and 25 percent (subtracting out the small percentage of students with disabilities who regularly opt out) in 2015. Here are the results.

Leaving aside how different these passing rates are from district to district, which is a topic for another day, I can't really draw any conclusions at all from a comparison of the data from year to year.

Now, Dryden and Lansing were about typical for NYS: About 20 percent of students across the state opted out. In a place like Dolgeville, where the opt-out rate was closer to 90 percent, you're likely to see some effects. We already know that districts with richer students were more likely to have higher opt-out rates. I thought a 20 percent opt-out would have some sort of effect. I was wrong. I don't pretend that a sample size of two is nearly enough, and I hope some enterprising reporter will follow up. Statewide, it sure looks as though the scores were consistent with last year's. Not the result I expected, but at least Paul didn't win, either.

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