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Why do so many SLP students opt out of testing?

St. Louis Park High School has a significantly higher opt-out rate than our neighboring school districts. We want to help staff, families, and students understand how these tests can benefit students and schools and how opting out can actually have unintended negative impacts.

Let’s break it down
The state uses proficiency data to help identify which schools need additional support and recognize those making fantastic progress. But when students opt out of testing, they are marked as “not proficient” by the state, significantly lowering apparent proficiency levels. It impacts everything from students’ college-ready scores and understanding of academic progress to school enrollment and perception. 

It’s not that SLP students aren’t proficient, it’s that many are not testing
At nearly all schools, the proficiency levels of SLP students in both math and reading is higher than the state, sometimes much higher. While opting out is somewhat of a problem at the Middle School where 11-18% of students opted out of each MCA test in the spring of 2022, it is a large problem at the High School, where 38-65% of students opted out of MCA testing last year. When this large group opted-out, the overall proficiency for the High School dropped over 12% for math and over 15% for reading. These drops make it appear that the High School is lagging behind others in the state, when in fact it is above or similar to other districts across the state.

There are a variety of beliefs about standardized tests
Movements across the country have encouraged families to opt out without understanding the impact it has on students and schools. Some movements, for example, are based on the premise that standardized tests are racially biased against Students of Color. We acknowledge that some tests can be biased or used inappropriately to disadvantage Students of Color, however, through St. Louis Park Public School’s strategic plan for racial equity transformation, we remain committed to ensuring our testing practices benefit students. Ultimately, we believe these tests provide vital information on how the district as a whole is or is not providing rigorous instruction for all students. 

We encourage SLP families to continue their learning and understanding about standardized tests. 

In the meantime, we want to share our beliefs about standardized tests. 

  • They are a small but important part of measuring the effectiveness of teaching.
  • They help us understand what teaching strategies and practices are working.
  • They help highlight classrooms and schools that are making fantastic progress, and where we need to continue to improve.
  • They help hold SLP schools and our district accountable for high quality instruction aligned with state standards.

How standardized tests benefit students and schools

  • Students who take the tests receive a college-ready score that can save them time and money by not having to take remedial, non-credit courses at a Minnesota State college or university. 
  • Schools, teachers, and caregivers can gain valuable information about how well a student is progressing academically. 
  • Teachers and school leaders receive information about areas of strength and gaps in our current curriculum, which then informs how educators plan lessons in math, reading, and science.
  • Students who take the tests count towards the school's and district's overall state test results. 
  • It ensures that resources and support for student learning are equitably distributed to SLP schools.

How do educators use standardized test data?

“As a teacher in St. Louis Park I use the results from the end of year tests, like the MCAs, as a kind of thermometer to understand not only the students, but my own success for the year. No one I work with would ever want to put too much emphasis into a single test from a single student, but the MCAs are a great tool for holding myself accountable and identifying where I can improve meeting the needs of my students. I want students to leave my room ready to change the world. The MCAs are an important tool to help me change what needs changing and make what is working even better. I need objective data to make sure our students don’t just feel ready to create change, but have the skill sets to do so.” - Phil Stern, 5th grade teacher
 
“The results of the MCA test inform our schools how well the curriculum and instruction is translating into understanding of our state standards and benchmarks. At the end of each testing season, each school receives a report stating how well the students understand each benchmark. When this report shows high levels of proficiency, we teachers celebrate! At the middle and high school level, I have been working with different departments in the areas where this report shows low levels of proficiency. From there, we dig deeper into the meaning of the standards and benchmarks and make changes to our curriculum and instruction. This often means that we increase the rigor in our classrooms and our expectations of learning on our assessments.” - Maddy Wegleitner, Secondary Learning Specialist