A Malverne father, who asked not to be identified because he fears retribution from his child’s school, said that he struggled with his conscience for days before instructing his child to go to school but to refuse to take the state English Language Arts test last week.
The man said that he read the “rules” for refusing to take the test online.
“I told my child to sit down at his desk, read the first two pages of the test but make no marks on any page — not even write a name on the paper,” he said. “I told my child to ask to go to another room where the test was not being administered, but his teacher refused. My child had to sit there for a few hours while the other kids around him took the test.”
He said that he was opting his son out of the test as a protest against the high-stakes testing system that he says made his son physically ill and disdainful of school.
“I am all for standards and like the Common Core curriculum,” the man said. “[But] with the focus on testing and accountability, the kids really aren’t learning anymore. All they learn is how to take the test. There is little social studies, science or foreign language teaching anymore. It’s all about pliance rate would lose state aid in future budget negotiations.
The English Language Arts test was given over three days, April 16-18. The math exam was scheduled to be given this Wednesday through Friday.
A number of parents chose to opt out, beginning what many are saying is a movement that will likely grow each year.
Two students opted out in the West Hempstead schools, a district official said. The official would not say what grade or grades the students were in, saying only, “We don’t talk about individual kids or test situations.”
Robert Fenter, a deputy superintendent in Oceanside, said that 15 students in the district opted out of taking the test.
In Malverne, there were two opt-outs, one at the middle school and another in an elementary school.
Island Park officials declined to give a number, but said in a statement that both the Board of Education and district administrators “believe that there are too many tests these days, especially those related to the new student learning objectives.”
In Rockville Centre, however, where the district’s superintendent, Dr. William Johnson, supported activists who were calling for parents to opt out, more than 300 students declined to take the test.
In each district, students who did so were made to sit at their desks in the testing room and accept the test booklet. They were not allowed to leave until the test time had expired, nor were they allowed to go to another room. They were marked “not tested,” state officials said.
Those who did not show up for the test were marked absent, and will be issued a makeup test.
Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, a state advocacy group, said, “It is not difficult to understand why growing numbers of parents around the country are choosing to have their children opt out of testing. Too often, our state and national policy makers have confused testing with teaching.”
Janet Deutermann, a parent in Rockville Centre who started the Facebook page that generated support for the opt-out cause, said, “Parents are finally educating themselves on the state of our educational system, and we are horrified by what we have found. Excessive testing on educationally inappropriate material, an experimental core curriculum, which eliminates inspired and creative learning, selling of our children’s data without our consent and a system that vilifies the only component of education that puts our children first: our teachers.”
Asked by reporters to comment on the opt-out movement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “I’ve heard both sides of the argument. I understand the controversy. The State Education Department is the entity that is in charge. It’s not my place to side with the students who are opting out. … Has there ever been a student who says, I love tests? I hated tests, but it’s the nature of the beast. I understand that there are parents who feel that we are testing too much, but that’s part of the process.”