| by Rick Pezzullo |
Less students in the Tarrytown and Irvington school districts opted out of taking the state Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams in April than the majority of districts in Westchester and statewide.
Reportedly, more than 180,000 students in New York State boycotted the ELA exam this year, representing just below17% of the 1.1 million students eligible in grades 3-8. Last year, 60,000 students opted out.
In Westchester, most districts reported between 12% and 35% refusals, while Mahopac, just over the Westchester border, had 50% non-participants.
In Irvington, only 46 of 809 eligible students refused to take the ELA exam (5.5%), while 55 of 742 students opted out of the math test (7%).
In an April 9 letter to parents, Irvington Superintendent of Schools Kristopher Harrison stated districts were required to maintain a 95% participation rate for the state tests or face possible consequences from the State Education Department, perhaps in the form of less funding.
Irvington School Trustee Robyn Kerner, a mother of three sons attending district schools, said opting out of the Common Core exams was a personal decision that parents had the right to make.
“As a district I believe we need to support those choices. Personally, I believe that opting out in the numbers we have seen has certainly sent a message to Albany — they are already responding,” she said. “The concern I have is that there are many different reasons why people are making the decision to opt out: objecting to the tests being used as 50% of a teacher effectiveness level, feeling the questions are inappropriate for the targeted age group, wanting to eliminate the testing completely and lack of useful data from the tests about our children.”
“Without a clear message, the opt out might not produce the desired result,” she added.
In Tarrytown, 38 of 620 eligible students opted out of the ELA exam (6%) and 53 from the math test (8%). In grades 6-8, 45 of 598 students refused to take the ELA exam (7%) and 74 boycotted the math test (11%).
In his spring newsletter, Tarrytown Superintendent of Schools Christopher Clouet stated he “respectfully” disagreed with the organizers of the “Opt-Out” movement.
“I often hear that the tests have no value and that the information about student growth is received too late to make any meaningful difference in instructional practice. I have a different perspective,” he explained. “The Common Core aligned assessments are about trends. They are not a student report card. They are about measuring how well we, as a district, are supporting student learning as we shift to the more rigorous, new standards which are designed to better prepare our children for the 21st Century college and career challenges.”
“I believe that as parents and as educators we have every right to question the validity of any tests our children take and demand that they be constantly improved, but that opting out is not the answer,” he added.