Half the Students Opted Out of State Math Test on Long Island, NY

According to Newsday, the major newspaper on Long Island, about half of eligible students opted out of state math tests. This shows the resilience of the opt out movement and confounds the ability of the state to rank schools by test scores. The statewide number are likely to be about 20%, as in other years.

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“Nearly 80,000 public school students in 100 districts across Long Island refused Tuesday to take the state mathematics exam given in grades three through eight, in a fifth straight year of boycotts driven by opposition to the Common Core tests, according to a Newsday survey.

“On the first full-fledged day of math testing in Nassau and Suffolk counties, 79,780 students in the districts that responded opted out — 53.1 percent of the pupils eligible in those systems to take the exam. There are 124 districts on the Island.

“The state’s Common Core math exams began Tuesday morning for most students in grades three through eight. The math test, like the English Language Arts exam administered in the same grade levels in late March, is given in segments during three days and will finish for most students on Thursday.

“Educators and leaders of the opt-out movement on the Island had said they expected refusals to remain high on the Island, a hotbed of anti-test activism. Nearly 85 percent of eligible students in the Middle Country district boycotted the test Tuesday.

“Until state assessments are cleanly and clearly uncoupled from teacher evaluations and are used solely to inform instruction, opt-outs will continue to be a reality,” Middle Country Superintendent Roberta Gerold said. “Parents have to believe that activities in which their children are involved are free of politics and have instructional value and no one can honestly say that is true about the current grades three-through-eight assessment.”

“This is the fifth consecutive year of boycotts of the Common Core tests. On Long Island, the number of refusals mushroomed to about half of all eligible students both last year and in 2015, according to Newsday surveys of the 124 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties at the time.

“On Tuesday, figures from the 100 responding districts showed 32,239 students in Nassau and 47,541 in Suffolk opted out of the exams. Newsday’s survey showed a broad range: In the Plainedge district, for example, 79 percent of students refused to take the test, while in Hempstead, less than 7 percent opted out.

“More than half of the 100 districts that responded reported that more than 50 percent of their eligible students were sitting out the exam.

“Those opposed to the exams object to the Education Department’s reforms, saying that children are being over-tested and the tests are not developmentally appropriate to children’s ages.

“The state agency has made some changes. Last year, the department shortened the exams, established a statewide moratorium until 2019-20 on using test scores in teachers’ job ratings, and included teachers in devising test questions.

“The ELA exam, given the final week in March, was boycotted by more than 97,000 students on the Island — more than half of those eligible — according to results of a Newsday survey to which 116 of the 124 school systems responded.

“There is a significant difference in the number of students who take the math exam compared with the ELA, because some middle school students in accelerated math classes may not sit for it.

“Districts can waive the state math test for seventh- and eighth-graders who will take the Regents exam in algebra and for those who will take the Regents exam in geometry. In Newsday’s survey Tuesday, tallies of eligible students in three districts included students slated to sit for the Regents exam.

“This year, several systems on Long Island are offering computer-based testing, a new program implemented by the Education Department. Those exams also are given during three days.

“The Franklin Square district on Monday had third-graders in one of its three elementary schools taking the electronic test. Eighteen of 78 eligible third-graders there — 23 percent — opted out, the district said.

“In the South Huntington school district, more than 47 percent of eligible students opted out of the math test on Tuesday. School officials there said they encouraged parents to make their own choice.

“Our position on the opt-out or opt-in movement is that we respect each family’s right to make their own decision regarding testing and have worked hard to keep this polarizing issue from diverting focus away from the important instructional work taking place in our classrooms,” Superintendent David Bennardo said.

“Last year, nearly 88,000 students in 106 districts that responded to Newsday’s survey opted out of the math exam — nearly 53 percent of eligible students in the responding districts.

“In 2015, 66,000 students in 99 districts that responded to Newsday’s survey boycotted the math tests — 46.5 percent of eligible students in the responding districts.”

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