BVSD encouraging parents to opt students in, not out, of state tests

Boulder Valley School District leaders want to see last year‘s increased participation rates on state tests become a trend.

With state testing coming up next month, the district is again actively encouraging parents to opt in through its .

“Taking the test is a benefit to the school district,” Boulder Valley spokesman Randy Barber said. “It really gives us an apples to apples comparison of our schools to other schools across the state.”

Boulder Valley, which previously had one of the highest opt-out rates in the state, reversed course last year from its hands-off approach to state testing.

The district again this year is asking — though not requiring — families to keep students who are opting out home from school during testing.

Boulder Valley also previously offered an online opt-out form for parents, while parents now are asked to their schools — giving school principals the opportunity to talk about testing benefits.

Coupled with the state‘s decision to cut back on high school tests, the district‘s encouragement seems to have worked.

While Boulder Valley didn‘t hit the federal 95 percent participation target last year, participation rates improved significantly, which district officials said in turn boosted the .

Under the state accountability system, students whose parents excuse them from taking the state tests don‘t count against a district‘s participation rate. But too many unexcused no-shows can lower a district‘s state rating.

, the district‘s elementary participation rate averaged 96 percent. At middle school, it averaged 86 percent.

A little more than 90 percent of ninth- and 10th-graders also took the PSAT, while 88 percent of juniors took the SAT — both taken nationally and used to measure student readiness for college.

“Students see value in PSAT and SAT,” said Jonathan Dings, Boulder Valley‘s Executive Director of Student Assessment.

The one test where participation remained low was the only state-level content area test taken by high schoolers, 11th-grade science. That test garnered about 30 percent participation.

“Science is important in our community,” Dings said. “We remain hopeful we will see increased participation.”

Low participation rates also make it especially difficult to look at achievement of specific groups of students at each school, such as students in poverty or students with learning disabilities, district officials said.

That‘s because the state doesn‘t release achievement scores for groups smaller than 16 students, or growth scores for groups smaller than 20 students.

“We have better data now and have been more able to use that data in the current strategic plan process,” Dings said.