Approximately 3,410 students in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York State opted out of the Common Core-based state math test. This group was an 84% increase over the group who refused to take the state English Language Arts (ELA) test earlier this school year. In all, 3.4% of all students third grade through eighth grade had parents who kept their children from taking the math test, according to Gary Stern and Randi Weiner, reporters for The Journal News.
“When families saw some kids opting out from the ELA tests, some thought ‘Next time around, I’m going to do it,’” said Lisa Davis, executive director of the Westchester Putnam School Boards Association. “Parents talk to other parents about what happens when your kid doesn’t take the tests.”
Groups like New York State Allies for Public Education have encouraged parents to “opt out” of the Common Core-based testing. Many parents think that the Common Core has not been developed properly and that parents have not been invited to be involved. Scarsdale Superintendent Michael McGill stated that the PTA in his district is asking for data to support the test’s validity.
Spokesmen for the state say that the students who opted out will not affect the significance of the testing. The state does not offer an opting out choice for students. However, if a school has less than a 95% participation for three years straight, the school would be required to present an improvement plan to the state. Mahopac Superintendent Thomas Manko fears that if the state and federal officials do not revise this formula, his district may lose some of its federal funding.
In Alabama, opting out of a state Common Core standardized test can get a student suspended, which happened recently to an eighth grade student. The Alabama Department of Education said that a student may be absent for the test if the parent sends the school a written refusal.
The student’s mother had written the school such a note, writes Ben Axelson for the Syracuse Media Group. This is not the only time that a student has been punished for not taking the test. A middle-schooler in Goshen, New York was suspended for sharing with classmates that they could opt out of the Common Core English test.
In California, a 12 year-old student’s mother was banned from coming on to the school property because the student had been seen handing out opt-out forms to fellow students. Fox News reported that students in Arkport, New York, were rewarded with ice cream if they took the standardized English test. Students who did not take the test received no ice cream.
A spokesman for the New York Education Department was emphatic in his statement that the tests are designed to be a measurement of a student’s progress toward the standards of the Common Core, writes Gary Stern reporting for The Journal News. But, Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate who will be running against Gov. Andrew Cuomo this fall, disagrees:
“We absolutely need higher standards in our schools,” he said. “But as governor, I’ll let improvements be made at the local level — where they should be — with the full involvement of parents and teachers.”
There are administrators who support parents’ rights to exclude their children from this testing. Westchester’s Davis says she hopes the state will understand parents’ reasons for not allowing their children to take the tests.