Oceanside resident Ellen Fogel struggled with her conscience and her duty to her children for days prior to the recent state testing program.
Was she going to let her children take the tests that she considered to be part or a system that has “become educationally insolvent” due to state mandates not only on what should be taught, but on how students should be tested and evaluated on what they have or have not learned.
“It was a very hard decision the mother of two school-age children said. “I went back and forth. I was not afraid of whether or not they would fail, but that the testing program was actually making my daughter ill, with a nervous stomach and bouts o throwing up.”
“There is a lot more to this common core testing program than we are seeing, a hidden political agenda to take over the schools from local control and do away with tenure for teachers,” she said. “If you make the tests so onerous and difficult, then you can blame the failure on the teachers and the schools and user them to fulfill an agenda.”
“We keep pressuring students with more tests and more homework, we are going to have a generation of depressed kids,:” she added.
Fogel eventually sent her kids to school to take the test, mostly because she was afraid of the ramifications of them not taking them and because she was not sure what the impact would be of her opting-out.
State officials has said earlier that students would not be punished for opting out, but that school systems that did not have a 95 percent compliance rate would find themselves losing state aid in future budget negotiations.
The English Language Arts test was given over three days, April 16, 17 and 18. The mathematics tests will be given April 24, 25 and 26.
A number of parents did opt-out, the beginning of what many are saying is a movement that would likely grow each year.
Two students opted out in the West Hempstead schools, an official said. The official would not discuss what grade or grades the students were in.
` “We don’t talk about individual kids or test situation,” the person said.
Robert Fenter, a deputy superintendent in the Oceanside schools, said thqt 15 students in that 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 numerate the opt-out in the district, 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 the activists who were calling for parents to opt-out, more than 300 students declined to take the test.
In each district, students 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 was completed, nor were they allowed to go to an alternative site where they could read quietly or do other actives during the test time.
Students who did not show up for the test were marked absent and will be issued a make-up test at a later date.
Those who sat for the test and who then refused to take it will be marked” not tested,” state officials said.
Billy Easton, the 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 of the opt-out, 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.”
When asked by reporters for comment on the opt-out movement, Governor 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.”