A protester holds her sign at a teacher rally in Frankfort. | Photo by Olivia Krauth

Kentucky parents could opt for their kids not to take state tests starting next year if legislation proposed by two Louisville representatives passes.

House Bill 331, sponsored by Jefferson County Republicans Rep. Jason Nemes and Rep. David Osborne, would let parents pull their students out of “high-stakes” state tests like KPREP, and districts would be required to notify parents of the opt-out option, plus have policies in place should a parent choose to go that route.

Any negative scores derived from students not taking a test would not count against anyone, and state and local education officials could not take punitive action against those choosing to opt out, according to the bill.

Public education advocates and many teachers are against state testing, frequently qualified as “high-stakes,” because they feel it puts too much pressure on kids and too much focus on teaching to a test, instead of teaching to learn. One of the more vocal advocates, Jefferson County teacher and parent Tiffany Dunn, helped write the legislation she hopes will reduce that pressure.

“I’m against any testing that doesn’t direct instruction,” Dunn told Insider Louisville. “High-stakes assessments such as KPREP do not guide instruction and are punitive. No test should rank schools, label children or judge teachers.”

If enough parents opt out, the legislation could effectively end state testing in Kentucky’s public schools, Dunn said. While many in education circles dislike state testing, it is unclear how many parents would take advantage of the option if the legislation passes.

But students without engaged parents could be left behind if the parents don’t fill out forms to opt out of testing; the school’s reputation and standing with the state would rest more heavily on their shoulders. Test scores are used to determine which schools receive extra state assistance under the accountability system, among other things.

There’s always that concern, Dunn said. “That’s why it’s important that the bill mandates that districts make opt-out information available to all parents/legal guardians.”

Students without parental engagement are typically more disadvantaged, likely facing more issues outside of school than their peers. Minority students or those on free or reduced lunch — a common indicator of poverty — tend to fare worse on state assessments than their peers. The bill bars districts from specifically asking certain student groups to opt out in attempts to boost scores.

It is unclear how simple or difficult an opt-out process could be on the district level.

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Olivia Krauth
Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy. Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern. Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies. Email Olivia at [email protected]