ALBANY – More than a million students in grades 3-8 across New York are scheduled to take state-mandated English Language Arts and Math starting this week. However, thousands of those students will not be taking the exams after parents from across the state have decided to “opt out.”
According to an article in Elmira’s Star Gazette, a parent-led effort to opt their children out of New York’s standardized tests appears to have gained momentum in recent weeks, with the head of the state’s teachers union, various labor-backed groups and even the Working Families Party of New York throwing support behind the movement.
The surge in opt-outs could may cause problems for local school districts, who are facing a threat of potential sanctions from the state Education Department if participation rates on the exams are low. If a district falls below a 95 percent participation rate, the state can impose sanctions – with the most severe punishment being a cut in federal funding.
Some officials say as many as 200,000 parents and students could opt out this year, with many of them living her in Chautauqua County. Last week during the Jamestown School board meeting, Superintendent Tim Mains briefly talked about the importance of the exams, explaining that its crucial for the district to have a high number of students take the exam because it is state law and the district is not in any kind of position to be faced with possible sanctions.
According to the Star Gazette article, the state doesn’t tally the number of parents who refused the test on their children’s behalf. But 67,000 students who didn’t take the 2014 math exam had no “known, valid” excuse, along with 49,000 students who skipped the English Language Arts test, according to the state Education Department.
The “opt out” movement gained steam last year with both parents and teachers voicing concern over the state’s widely criticized rollout of the Common Core, a more-challenging set of education standards being implemented in New York and more than 40 other states.