Many public school students in Kansas may not have to take this year's statewide writing exam, if their school district decides to opt out of it.
The Kansas State Board of Education agreed to make the test optional in 2013 because many districts are having trouble adapting to new computer-based writing tool used in the tests, and because the districts are busy gearing up to implement new reading, writing and language arts standards next year.
Tom Foster, the state education department's director of research and evaluation, said the state has flexibility on the writing exam because it is not one of the assessments mandated by federal law. Kansas administers the writing exam every other year, alternating years with a history and government exam.
Foster said districts are currently busy working on the new Common Core State Standards in reading, language arts and math. Those are scheduled to go into full effect next year, and a new type of test geared to those standards, known as the Smarter Balance assessments, will be ready in 2015, which is the next year the state will administer the writing test.