This week, Saugerties joined school districts across New York in administering state assessments in math for students in grades three through eight. It was the second straight week of the standardized tests, with students taking math assessments this week.
Preliminary opt-out figures for the ELA tests came in at 19 percent. That would represent a drop of four percent over 2015, when 23 percent of students refused the ELA tests. Assistant superintendent Laurence Mautone said that the district still needed to establish whether some students who were absent were actually opting out, or were out of class due to illness, family vacation or other reasons.
Last year, the district saw a greater number of students refusing the math assessments, with 30 percent opting out. Mautone said that it was unlikely that the district would have an official count for both ELA and math tests until later in April.
Developed in 2010 by the U.S Department of Education, Common Core hit New York State when the New York State Board of Regents became a pioneer in 2011 in adopting the new tougher standards designed to give kids a more rigorous preparation for college by deciding to change associated high-stakes testing which had been around for nearly a decade to reflect the new educational standards. Among the components of the state assessments was how they reflected upon a teacher’s annual performance review. Governor Andrew Cuomo initially recommended the test results count for half a teacher’s performance, but a task force late last year recommended a four-year moratorium on assessments while other changes to Common Core were considered.
The Common Core Task Force’s report was released hours after president Barack Obama signed the federal Every Student Succeeds Act last December, the replacement to No Child Left Behind. Cuomo’s panel recommended reductions in the number of days and the duration of standardized tests, and allowing for flexibility with students with learning disabilities or for whom English is a second language.
When the Saugerties district released its test refusal data in May 2015, superintendent Seth Turner included a note asking the state to stop holding districts liable for their participation rates. According to the state, districts which fall below 95 percent can be tagged as having failed to meet adequate yearly progress. Districts falling below the 95 percent participation rate in consecutive years can face intervention from the state, possibly requiring the district to come up with a comprehensive plan to address the problem. But with the controversial nature of the tests, districts across the state are finding it increasingly difficult to hit the participation mark.
“It is my hope that the federal and state governments will now take action to address the myriad of issues surrounding K-12 education in our country, particularly the obsession with data collection and use of standardized tests for children,” wrote Turner.