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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Merrick parents testing the limits
(Page 2 of 3)
Fewer than 95 percent of students at Old Mill Road School in North Merrick took new English Language Arts tests that the state launched last month — a threshold that schools must meet for them to have made “Adequate Yearly Progress,” according to the New York State Department of Education.

A Facebook page called “Long Island Opt-out Info” has more than 8,800 members, and links to information advising parents on how to “opt-out” their children from the tests. Several school boards around New York, from New Paltz to North Bellmore, have passed resolutions calling on the state to change the testing system. Another website, unitedoptout.com, advertises itself as an online resource for a national movement against “high-stakes testing.”

Dr. John King Jr., commissioner of the State Education Department, has defended the Common Core standards and the new assessment tests. He argued in a statement on the Education Department’s website that assessments should be quickly aligned with “the higher standards required for college and career success in the 21st century,” which make up Common Core.

“Our students are already accountable for the common core,” King wrote. “They do not have time to wait. Every time a college freshman takes a placement exam that first month on campus, he or she is being tested against the very expectations in the common core. Every time a high school graduate faces a daunting task on a challenging job … he or she is being tested against the common core. And, quite frankly, our students are not doing well enough on those real-world tests. Only about 35 percent of our students graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary to be called college- and career-ready.”

Thorny issues await schools

The opt-out movement has raised many potentially thorny issues for local school officials, who use the test scores to help evaluate teachers and principals and make determinations about instructional needs, eligibility for elementary schools’ gifted programs, honors-track placement in the middle schools and academic intervention services for struggling students. School officials stressed that missing test scores will not immediately affect the students who opted out or their schools, but could have effects in the future.

“In terms of what happens in the future for the students, some of it is ‘to be determined,’” said North Merrick Superintendent David Feller.

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