Colorado’s opt-out rates stay steady, mostly

Colorado continued to see a large percentage of older students skip standardized tests in 2016, with less than 90 percent of students in grades six through 10 taking the state’s battery of tests.

Like last year, participation was higher in primary grades, according to new data released Thursday. At least 92 percent of those students took the exams, with participation reaching 96 percent among third-graders.

But state officials are happy the opt-out numbers didn’t increase a year after records in Colorado were shattered.

“That stabilization is a good first step,” said Joyce Zurkowski, the head of testing for the Colorado Department of Education.

The raw number of students who opted out of the state’s tests this year will likely be lower, because there are fewer tests for students to take. In 2015, Colorado lawmakers ended 11th-grade PARCC testing among other changes.

Federal law requires schools to test 95 percent of students. However, Colorado has codified parents’ rights to opt their students out of the tests without penalties. While the U.S. Department of Education has not pushed back against the state’s law, that could change under the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

Education officials say they’re also heartened by the increase in 10th graders who were tested this year. Eighty-eight percent of 10th graders took the PSAT — a 27-point gain over how many 10th graders took the PARCC test last year.

Participation levels rose dramatically for 10th grader who took PSAT exam