Matthew M. Chingos at the Brookings Institute analyzes opt-out rates in New York State, which exhibited “enormous variation across communities.” His primary data sources were an opt-out advocacy organization called United to Counter the Core, which used “a combination of media stories, freedom of information requests, and reports by administrators, teachers, and parents,” as well as the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data.
Here are some of his conclusions:
- Districts with higher opt-out rates tend to serve fewer disadvantaged students and have somewhat higher test scores (which is not surprising given the correlation between family income and test scores).
- Although “districts with lower scores have higher opt-out rates…[t]his analysis confirms that districts serving more disadvantaged students have lower opt-out rates, even after test scores are taken into account.
- A caveat: “just because lower-scoring districts have higher opt-out rates (controlling for free/reduced lunch) does not mean that lower-scoring students are more likely to opt out. It could be the higher-scoring students in those districts that are doing the opting out”.
- And “two preliminary conclusions”: “First, relatively affluent districts tend to have higher opt-out rates, with opt-out less common in the disadvantaged districts that are often the target of reform efforts. Second, districts with lower test scores have higher opt-out rates after taking socioeconomic status into account. Potential explanation for this pattern include district administrators encouraging opt-outs in order to cover up poor performance, districts focusing on non-tested subjects to satisfy parents who care less about standardized tests, and parents becoming more skeptical of the value of tests when their children do not score well. Rigorous testing of these and alternative explanation for opt-out behavior await better data.”