Many educators expect more students to opt out of the Common Core grades 3-8 English and math tests than in previous years.
“I would urge parents at this point in time to opt out of testing,” said New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee in an Albany radio interview. “I think we’re going to see an increased reliance and many more parents engaging in that opt-out movement.”
According to The Washington Post, an estimated 60,000 students opted out statewide last year. This year, the number could climb to 250,000, according to Magee.
Superintendent Seth Turner is also expecting more opt-outs. In a letter posted to the district’s website, he said, “If left unchecked, our district has the possibility of beginning a trend of not meeting participation standards” — referring to the minimum of 95 percent participation in the tests. His letter went on to say the district could lose local control and aid if it were to fall under that threshold, which groups opposed to the tests dispute or minimize.
We spoke with several parents who have spoken out against the tests, the Saugerties district’s “sit and stare” policy for students who opt out, and the governor’s withholding of state aid and promotion of charter schools and increased reliance on testing and outside observers for teacher evaluation. All three said their child(ren) would be opting out for the first time this year and they expect many other parents to make the same decision.
Parent Jennifer Mangione attributes it to increased awareness. She says parents are “very unhappy with the way New York State government is reducing funds to our schools, holding money hostage unless we agreed to Gov. Cuomo’s reforms and all the while Gov. Cuomo is supporting tax breaks to for-profit charter schools and yacht owners.”
She feels the tests do not provide useful data. “Once the data does come in, nothing changes in the student’s learning plan. We don’t have extra help that is offered nor are the kids who score [well] getting enrichment classes.”
Alex Rappoport says the test “is solely designed as a measure of teacher performance” and is not used for the benefit of either under-achieving or over-achieving students.
Rappoport says he, too, believes the number of students refusing to take the test will increase this year because of the experiences families had with last year’s test. He points to the anxiety it caused for students and the extended time students spend testing.
Andrea Burch started an online petition last month asking the School Board to reconsider its policy for students who opt out, which requires them to remain seated at their desks with the test booklet closed all day for the duration of the two three-day tests. Like Mangione and Rappoport, she feels the tests aren’t used to help her children’s education, since the scores aren’t sent out until the following school year. She says she knows how her children are doing in school without the tests, “because of the homework and tests my children take during the school year, and I am in constant contact with their teachers.”
Burch says, “I do think that more parents will be opting out, but some are still unaware of the dangers these tests are tied to. The information is out there, and I wish that more parents and residents would read both sides of the argument to become well informed on what is happening in our community and state. This affects all of us, not just the parent and child.”
ELA testing for grades 3-8 takes place April 14-16. Math testing will be April 22-24.