State News

‘Test transparency’ for K-12 students boosted under Assembly-approved bill

Legislation that would make it easier to opt-out of standardized tests passed the state Assembly this week, marking one of the last acts of the years’ legislative session.

More parents would be able to excuse their children from standardized testing under a proposal approved by the state Assembly last week, as part of a series of education bills making their way through the Capitol.

The proposal would allow parents and guardians to excuse their student from statewide examinations between grades three-12, building upon current law, which allows opt-outs during grades four and eight-11.

The opt-out provision, which was initially intended to be expanded to other grades, was never broadened after mandated testing became more regularly applied for all students.

This inconsistency, bill co-sponsor state Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, argues, has created confusion among students and families as to who is eligible to be excused from state assessments.

The second bill, coined the “Test Transparency Bill,” would make tested grade levels, dates, purpose and duration of all state examinations available to the public.

It would also require school districts to outline the opt-out process of any given test, if available, for students’ parents and guardians.

“These bills are bipartisan efforts and involved a great deal of effort and collaboration,” Thiesfeldt, the author of both proposals, said in a statement. “It’s gratifying to see them move forward in the process.”

Education officials, however, have voiced concern over the unintended consequences of expanding the opt-out provision.

“Ensuring all students participate in state assessment remains a high priority,” Department of Public Instruction officials told legislators earlier this year. “Assessing student performance to measure the progress each subgroup of students is making, and to clearly identify achievement gaps in our state remains a critical focus of the department.”

Despite concerns, the department acknowledged the merit of striving for equitable treatment across grades during a committee hearing on the legislation in June.

Both bills will now head to the state Senate for consideration.

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