Fewer students in the Saugerties Central School District opted out of state assessments this year than in 2015, a trend seen in other districts across the state.
For six days over two weeks in April, students in grades 3-8 were given English Language Arts and math tests, with some parents opting their children out of the exams for a variety of reasons. But as with other local districts like Kingston, Saugerties saw an uptick in participation this year.
Assistant Superintendent Laurence Mautone this week said participation in the math exams came in at around 74 percent, up 3 or 4 percent from 2015. Mouton said those figures include refusals, students who were absent, and those who were medically excused.
“For ELA I think we were at 80 [percent participation],” Mouton said. “Last year for math we were at 70. So ELA was up about three percent this year, and math seems like it’s up 3 or 4 percent.”
Developed in 2010 by the U.S Department of Education, Common Core hit New York State in 2011 when the Board of Regents became a pioneer 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 APPR, or Annual Professional Performance Review. Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially recommended the test results count for 50 percent of a teacher’s APPR. But a Common Core task force late last year recommended putting a four-year moratorium on assessments impacting a teacher’s APPR 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, which replaced 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 district released its test refusal data in May 2015, Superintendent Seth Turner included a note asking the State Education Department to stop holding districts liable for having fewer than 95 percent participation rates. According to the state, districts which fall below that rate can be tagged as having failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks. 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.
Mautone declined to speculate about why participation has risen this year, or why there’s still a greater number of students opting out of the math exams than the ELA tests.
“We’re happy that the students are participating,” he said.