North Merrick Superintendent David Feller told Joosten that he was sympathetic to her point of view, but the district must obey laws and state directives.
“Many of the things you said, I personally and professionally agree with,” Feller said. “If we were going to have the forum to debate the merits of the state testing and the philosophy that’s driving it, we probably could be here for hours. I’m trying to weigh my legal responsibilities as superintendent to not ignore what is a mandated part of the instructional program.”
Carolyn Condenzio, a parent of two children in the North Merrick School District and a seventh-grade teacher, also told the school board that she would not permit her children to sit for the state tests. She claimed they are used only to evaluate the performance of schools and teachers and have no benefit for students.
“I feel it’s not in my children’s best interest to take” the exams, she said.
Feller said that parents of about 25 students had contacted the North Merrick School District to demand that the students not take the exams. Merrick Superintendent Dominick Palma said that the parents of about 25 students in the Merrick district did the same.
Someone put fliers in mailboxes around Merrick on Monday that read “Urgent!! Parents: Choose to refuse!! (ELA Testing) Our children are being harmed!!” and referred readers to a Facebook page for more information. The page, “Long Island Opt-out Info,” has more than 7,900 members and links to a slide show that advises parents on how to “opt-out” their children from the tests. Unitedoptout.com, another website that parents brought up at North Merrick School District meetings this year, advertises itself as an online resource for a national movement against “high-stakes testing.”
Feller and Palma both said on Tuesday that their districts permitted children whose parents wanted them to opt out of the state tests to sit in a separate room and read quietly. “Our responsibility is to maintain the integrity of the testing and the test environment,” Feller said. “So we didn’t want to have any disruptions in the testing rooms with kids refusing to take the tests and creating a distraction.”