King Reassures, But Testing Opt Out Movement Grows in New York

New York State Education Commissioner John King continues to repeat his message that new standardized tests now being given in New York will prove to be a blessing for the state's kids. In a press briefing with reporters, King stressed that the tests are a crucial link in a plan to make sure that New York students are graduating from high school ready for both career and college — and won't require expensive remediation before being prepared to enter higher education.

Not all parents, however, are convinced.

The exams in questions are to be administered every year between the grades 3 and 8 and are based on the Common Core Standards that are being adopted by most of the states in the country. Advocates for the new tests say that they're needed to check how well students are doing with what is considered a more complex and challenging curriculum. As standards rise, King predicts that scores will drop in the short term.

King has said – and repeated today – that the new tests will be more difficult and that scores are likely to drop.

Officials at New York State United Teachers have said they are not opposed to the new standards, but that it is too early to give tests that are aligned with them because they are so new.

King said schools have had since 2010 to prepare for the new standards. He said the state cannot afford to wait another year to hold schools accountable for them.

The standards are so low now, he said, that 65 percent of students leave school without having the skills necessary to succeed, whether they graduate or not.

Meanwhile, at least some of the parents in Syracuse are unconvinced by King's arguments and plan to have their kids boycott the upcoming exams. Susan Grobsmith has instructed all three of her kids to push the test away when it is placed in front of them and plans to pick them up for school rather than have them sit in the classroom while their peers take the test.

Grobsmith is far from the only one who feels this way. Her family is part of a national movement that seeks to encourage parents to opt-out of standardized exams and at the same time lobby lawmakers and education experts to stop focusing on testing at the expense of everything else.

A Rochester school board member recently announced that she is refusing to have her child take the exams. The Saratoga Springs school board voted unanimously to call on the state to place less emphasis on the tests. A two-day protest was staged earlier this month at the U.S. Department of Education.

Opponents of the testing say it stresses students, provides limited measurement of a child's capabilities, takes away valuable teaching time that inspires creativity and shares personal information with private companies that provide the tests.

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