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Thursday, October 23, 2014
Hundreds opt out
District, parents question value of state exams

After 20 percent of the students scheduled to take the New York state ELA exams “opted out” of the tests, the Rockville Centre Board of Education took an official stance against what it termed “high-stakes testing” at its meeting on April 17, calling on the state and federal governments to re-examine their reliance on testing for assessing student progress.

Of the 1,637 students in grades 3 through 8 who were scheduled to take the ELA test, 309 opted out on April 16, the first day of testing. That number grew to 328 the following day and 338 on April 18. The majority of those students — more than 200 — were students at South Side Middle School.

“We will probably not make Annual Yearly Progress,” said Superintendent Dr. William Johnson. “And we don’t know what the consequences for not meeting Annual Yearly Progress under these set of circumstances are.” Annual Yearly Progress is the portion of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that measures how much students improve year-to-year and determines where districts should allocate resources.

“You get a red X [if you don’t make AYP],” Johnson said. “And then the district has to put together some sort of correction plan. But if the kids aren’t taking the test, how do I correct that? It’s not that they’re not attending — they’re showing up and not taking the test. So what am I going to do? Arrest them?”

Students who opted out of the test were allowed to quietly read a book during the test period.

“We are doing this exactly as we believe it should be done under New York state law and regulation,” Johnson said. “In the New York state guidelines, there is a statement that says that when students complete their exam and hand in their paper, they can in fact sit for the balance of the testing period and read a book. So what we are permitting students to do, when they have made the decision not to take the exam, they give it to the teacher and they sit at their desk and read a book.”

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