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Opt-Out Debate Rages As State Testing Begins In Westchester

There has been a mounting support for the opt out movement with standardized testing set to begin on Tuesday.
There has been a mounting support for the opt out movement with standardized testing set to begin on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flickr user Sarah-Ji

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – With approximately one million public school students set to start state-mandated standardized testing this week throughout New York, grumblings about “opting out” and “over testing” have come to a heated head.

Since the Common Core Learning Standards were enacted several years ago, many parents, educators and elected officials have banded together in their opposition of standardized testing, which some charge forces teachers to “teach to the test,” while adding undue stress on students, whose assessments are closely tied to the exams.

As a result, tens of thousands of students, whether on behest of their parents or schools, have boycotted the tests in an attempt to send a message to officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose most recent budget included controversial education reform that has come under fire from local officials.

“I understood the concept of Common Core, but the rollout was abysmal,” New York State Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Then I saw the new budget was all about testing and assessing teachers, not making sure how we can best educate our children.”

Beginning on Tuesday, third- through eighth-graders will head to the classroom after weeks of studying and lessons to take the state standardized English Language Arts exam. Next week, their math skills will be tested in another mandated exam.

According to reports, last year, no less than 50,000 students opted out of testing, with more expected to boycott this year as unrest grows between parents and schools officials about over testing students.

If a school doesn’t have 95 percent of students take the tests, they are deemed a district in need of assistance and will be forced to develop, submit and comply with a Local Assistance Plan, which has happened to select school districts in the past.

“As a parent who opted out, I’m in a unique position. Scarsdale believes that state tests don’t live up to their tests, and we didn’t want to over test, so we boycotted,” Assemblywoman Amy Paulin said. “ Scarsdale was punished for years monetarily and we were buried in paperwork, and we achieved nothing.”

Many state officials have been vocal in their support of the opt out movement as a way to send a message to those emphasizing mandated testing.

“Opting out is the only tool available to parents to make a statement,” state Sen. George Latimer noted. “I wholly support opting out (of testing) to make a statement.”

Despite the movement to boycott state testing, some officials have warned that caution is the best option. In a blog post that was updated Monday, Nancy Zimpher, the SUNY chancellor, raised concerns about the opt out movement.

“It’s up to us to make sure that we are preparing our kids to succeed. Opting out is not a choice that leads to success – not in college, not when it comes to finding a job and not in life,” she wrote. “If kids opt out, we risk them being left behind.”

Did your children boycott state mandated testing? Do you support the opt out movement? Vote in our poll and continue the conversation in the comments section below.

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