JAMESTOWN, NY – A new round of testing is now underway across New York State, but as an estimated one million students in third through eighth grades began taking their common core tests, also known as standardized tests, for English Language Arts (ELA) on Tuesday, thousands of their peers have opted out.
In Jamestown, it appears only a small group of students have opted out of the exam process. That’s according to Jamestown Superintendent Tim Mains, who spoke with WRFA Tuesday afternoon.
“The overwhelming majority of students in Jamestown are taking their tests, as they should,” Mains said. “So I think most parents recognize that this is an opportunity for kids to show what they know, and I believe we have very few people who refuse to take the tests.”
Some school districts in the state are seeing a high number of opt out rates and as a result, they’ve set aside space in the district where those students can go to quietly study or do other school work. However, Mains said that Jamestown doesn’t have the resources to provide an alternative space for its opt out students. As a result, they are required to sit quietly in the exam room while their peers take the tests.
“Our responsibility is to make sure the tests are available to all students,” Mains said. “There is no place for [the opt out students] to go. Anyone that is scheduled to take the test is in the room to take the test.”
“If their parents have directed them to refuse the test then they sit there until the proctor decides that the test time is up, or they have the opportunity to do something else, but we don’t have any place to put them,” Mains added. “When we go into testing it’s all hands on deck so we need all available staff to make sure the tests are administered and administered properly.”
Many parents are opting their children out of the exams because of the stress the tests have created. But Mains feels the exams are essential to strengthening the current education system.
“I don’t think there’s too much testing and I don’t think the tests are unfair. In fact I see the tests, in terms of instruction, as an essential way that we have of improving our delivery and helping the kids identify and correct any problems that they might be having,” Mains said.
Supporters of the opt-out movement say refusing the Common Core-aligned tests sends a message to state leaders, with parent groups expressing frustration with the state’s reliance on “high-stakes” tests and the New York State United Teachers union angered by a recent move to make teacher evaluations more reliant on student test scores.
But the state’s education leaders say opting out is the wrong choice and some sanctions could be delivered to districts that don’t have a high participation rate.
The English Language Arts testing continues today and Thursday, with another round of math exams schedule for next week.