Talking Education 2014
| Star-Tribune

A recent opinion from the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office states that students may not opt out of state assessments.

“The rules of the State Board of Education require districts to assess all eligible students,” the opinion reads. “This requirement is within the board’s statutory authority.

“Accordingly, districts must assess all eligible students, and students may not opt out of assessment.”

Richard Crandall, former director of the Wyoming Department of Education, sought the opinion. Some school districts had reported that parents were trying to opt their students out of state and local assessments.

In his request for an opinion, Crandall wrote: “Please review (the) … statutes addressing student assessment and school accountability to provide (the department) with a legal opinion on whether … the (department) has correctly concluded that parent opt-outs of state assessments are not allowed.”

The attorney general said the opinion is based on the fact that the state Board of Education is required to make a system to provide valid information about every district and was asked to build an accountability system.

The Legislature passed the Accountability in Education Act in 2011. It looks at student scores on exams to help grade districts. The grades can influence some types of funding or consequences, the opinion reads.

“(T)he results … can play a significant role in directing resources to improve student performance as well as directly impacting each school,” it adds.

Districts offer some accommodations on tests, but those apply only in specific cases, and those students are still assessed, the opinion says.

It also says the state board has the power to require districts to assess all the students.

“(A policy) that would permit parents to opt their children out could compromise the integrity of the information which determines school classification and adequate yearly progress,” the opinion reads.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill said she is circulating it so parents are informed. The opinion leaves out considerations about parents’ rights, she said.

“There are two principles that are absent: Parents have rights, and parents know what’s best for their kids,” Hill said.

Officials at Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core said parents have several reasons to want to opt out of tests.

“The fact that penalties are not outlined in statute begs that the opinion be challenged either by civil disobedience or lawsuit,” group member Cynthia McKee said in an email.

“We fully expect such a reaction by parents very passionate about their children and on the right side of this issue.”

Contact Assistant Managing Editor David Mayberry at 307-266-0633 or david.mayberry@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter@David_Mayberry.

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