Bill would lift school penalties for opt-out students

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Columbus (13abc, Action News) - A bill before Ohio lawmakers is aimed at concerns expressed by some school districts that their state ratings will fall because of how many students opted out of state tests.

The measure proposes that opt-outs effectively be ignored instead of counted as failures when calculating school and district report cards, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported (

State rules currently count kids who skip state tests as having earned a score of zero. Some legislators have said that the solution is to not count those students at all.

Twinsburg Superintendent Kathryn Powers said current state law isn't fair to schools that were caught up in the national opt-out movement.

"Our concern is that when the report cards are published, the grades that are assigned to our school district isn't going to be a true reflection of our students," Powers said.

State Rep. Kristina Roegner introduced a bill that would exempt students who opted out from the report card grade calculations for schools and districts.

"If they're not going to take the test, in no way should the school be penalized for it," said Roegner, a Republican who represents suburban Akron.

But other legislators have reservations, including the heads of the House and Senate education committees. They say that a "safe harbor" provision in place through the 2016-17 school year means that lower grades don't mean anything until then.

"You don't rush in to fix something because it affects a handful of schools and have it have unintended consequences on more schools," said state Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican representing parts of the Dayton area.

It's unclear how many students participated in the national opt-out movement. The state Department of Education won't have a good tally until after report cards are released next month.

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