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Amid Standardized Testing Discussion, Local Parents Debate 'Opting Out'

However, school attorney group says state law does not provide that option for students.

While parents debate the value of standardized tests for elementary and middle school students, the conversation has focused around one key question.

Can parents choose to not have their children take these tests, known as "opting out"?

The term refers to the question of whether parents can choose to have their children in grades 3 through 8 not take the upcoming state standardized tests, which are designed to measure proficiency in English and math based on the new "common core" school curriculum. The common core curriculum, adopted by 42 states so far, is a national standard to align student learning and better prepare them for college and careers.

On Facebook, a handful of "opt out" groups have formed, like this one here, in which parents share information, resources, opinions and anecdotes regarding the idea that their children can refuse to participate in the testing. However, according to this article published by the New York State Association of School Attorneys, New York State education law does not allow for opting out of the tests except in certain special education circumstances.

Supporters of the "opt out" movement say the testing is too stressful for kids and it takes away valuable classroom time that could be spent focusing on the curriculum rather than on test prep. Some also say the lower passing scores will lead to low self-esteem in students who may feel upset for performing "poorly" on the tests.

We asked on Facebook what people thought. We asked if New York State relies too much on standardized testing and if parents should be able to opt out of these tests. A debate erupted on our page between parents on either side of the issue. Below are just some of the many comments we received.

Vivie Best: They seem to spend too much valuable teaching time prepping for the tests to make the school look good and not to basic teaching. I see school as having enough stress - they need to learn knowledge - not test taking... I understand the state does not know how to access knowledge without standard testing. not all state have state testing.

Karen McGeary: Parents are not given all the information to make educated decisions. Many do not know that they do have the right to opt out, and NO the tests do not measure an accurate rating on what the children know and don’t know. Hundreds of hours are spent teaching to the test, the teachers are being rated on how well they children do. The textbook companies are the ones dictating what the students should be tested on because they make millions of dollars selling the materials and the test to Albany. If parents think real educators are the ones making up the test they are wrong...

Marianne Carrano Deszcz: Yes and yes! We have been seriously considering opting out. I hate that it sucks the creativity out of the way a teacher teaches and students are bored to tears, doing nothing but going over and over test questions. Learning is no longer allowed to be spontaneous and engaging - it's routine and dry.

Edyta Ptasinski Stapleton: I couldn't disagree more. Let's just opt out of everything. That's the route this country is taking anyway. No accountability. How do you gauge what the child knows? How do colleges know what they're getting? I have a 22 year old who is graduating from URI next month and I have a second grader, so I do know what I'm talking about.  For some reason people seem to want the easy way out. That's not the real world.

Laura Mikowitz Walsh: Is the same test given in every state? If so, aren't you the least bit curious how Long Island will compare to all other children statewide? It is my understanding that the Core Curriculum is a good thing..it just should have been phased in. We are just in a transition period. I don't think there is any need for panic. I think the majority of the states follow the core curriculum and there has to be some way to assure that all of our children are on the same level. It will all work out... This year will just be the hardest.. If it is affecting your child then by all means do what's right for your child - but overall I do not understand the extreme opposition.

Leslie Hoffman: I don't think you should be able to opt out. The test is given to see what the child knows and doesn't know. I don't see why people are making such a big deal over this.

Stacey Bochner: How else can you find out if the schools are doing their jobs!??? Suck it up people! Life is hard, jobs are hard and we are faced with pressure ever day! The sooner they realize what life is like, the easier it will be to start learning the needed skills to cope with stress. Life and real deadlines! WE WERE ALL 2ND GRADERS and 3rd graders and 5th graders! No one likes them but it must be done! I absolutely approve of the testing!

Susan Victoria Stacey: The children are being tested on material that is developmentally inappropriate. Please check out the current sample questions for ELA and Math and see what you think. They are nothing like the tests we took as kids.

Colleen Belson-Geraci: They are wrong because no child is “standard” therefore there shouldn’t be standardized testing

Kristina Mirell: Yes to the first qustion only because the tests aren't used for the kids directly, it's used for the school and teachers' performance. The second question is irrelevant because we already have the option to opt out our kids, even if it is supposedly thru a loophole in the fine print.

Lew Chipp: Yes overused and No parents should not be allowed to micromanage their child's public education.

Fantasia Bridal: Very much so! Yes to both. Children need to be enthusiastic learners not militant test takers. Teachers and children feel stressed with no dialog or discussion about what they are learning. Third graders: breakdown a hexagon into 3 equal parts and your timed. What is the benefit?

A meeting on the topic of standardized testing – which will feature discussion by retired educators, school attorneys and the founder of one of the "opt out" Facebook pages – is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Willow Creek Golf and Country Club in Mount Sinai.

What's your take on student testing? Do you support the idea that parents should be allowed to opt out of the testing for their children? Log in to Patch and share your thoughts as a comment below.

Brian April 11, 2013 at 07:24 PM
You want to see Common Core in action, in kindergarten, watch this. You tell me, should this be what our kinder classes now look like? The tip of the iceberg, so to speak. http://engageny.org/resource/common-core-video-series-kindergarten-mathematics-double-10-frames
Tracey Denton Budd April 11, 2013 at 08:16 PM
No it should not be an option. You can't opt out of Regents, SAT's, ACT's, LSAT's or college exams, etc. What kind of example are you setting if you opt out?
Marianne Carrano Deszcz April 11, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Unlike the SAT's etc, these tests are not written to demonstrate what the children have been learning. They are, as evidenced by the sample tests sent home to parents all over Suffolk County, poorly written, vague and inappropriate in the view of developmental and cognitive child psychologists. The test this year for 3rd graders was written at a 6th grade level. "Failing" is anywhere from an 80 to 87. And for what? It certainly isn't a measure of how good a teacher is and it in no way illustrates what students have learned. Sooooo what's the point?
Brian April 12, 2013 at 05:00 AM
@Tracey, there is a lot more going on than I think you are aware of. A lot. I mean that with all due respect and state that because yes, your child can opt-out of the ACT or SAT. In fact, over 800 colleges have recently stated they will no longer be using the tests for admission. The example we are setting my "refusing" these state mandated tests is that we care about the education our children are receiving. We care so much, that we know that not only is Common Core flawed, but the testing developed around it is flawed, as is APPR. Among other things. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/sat-act-not-required-colleges_n_2206391.html
pam April 12, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Actually it's worse than that. This is about corporate reform of public education - that involves making money. It's also about Race to the Top $ that won't even be distributed to many of our local school districts due to the distribution rules. My district has confirmed that we will get NO RTTT money or a few thousand dollars. Yet, the costs to comply are in the Hundreds of Thousands of dollars! How is that not waste of public tax money? There isn't one credible, universally accepted study showing that the test results show our kids are learning or that teachers are teaching. These tests are being used to collect data to be sold to other companies. At this time, corporations already contract with the state DOE and are collecting our children's PRIVATE information. There is a bill in the Assembly 06059 and Senate 04284 to curb the practice but there are no guarantees to protect our kids' information. As far as i am concerned opting-out is not wimping out. It is a necessary option to protect our kids from continuing to be used in a this despicable plan to "reform" education. The Commissioner of our Education Department should be removed from office and the Governnor needs to seriously change direction before further damage is done to us financially and to our kids educationally.

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