Parents Refuse to Let Children Take New York State Exams

By Joe Gullo

Published 03/26 2014 12:05PM

Updated 03/26 2014 12:07PM

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - As schools prepare for New York State's English Language Arts and Math exams for grades 3 through 8, some parents will refuse to let their children take the tests next month.

"The State exams have really become an out-of-control beast. We have the wolf by its ears and there are questions about the validity of the State exams, the validity of the results,” said Greg McCrea, President of the Westhill District Education Association, a teacher's union in the Westhill Central School District. “There are questions about the length of the State exams. We have kids sitting for nine hours."

Parents met Wednesday evening at Onondaga Community College to review the options for their children. Many spoke out against the Common Core education standards and questioned the security of inBloom, a system used to gather student data. 

Mounting frustration prompted a backlash focused on testing in schools. A grassroots movement is growing across the state, with parents letting their elementary and middle school children refuse to take the ELA and math exams. 

"Part of it is just to make a statement. I think teaching our children civil disobedience can be a good lesson and we also find the test meaningless," said Michael Gilbert, a parent and school psychologist. 

Groups like Allies for Public Education and Opt Out CNY are encouraging parents to send their school districts a notice that their students choose to refuse, so their tests scores are marked as invalid rather than "absent". The groups have even provided sample letters for parents online.

"The test is really made to grade the teacher. It doesn't have anything to do with my son's academic progress," said parent Jennifer Savastino. 

That has become the rally cry for unions, which have lobbied against Governor Cuomo's recent push for more intense teacher evaluations, with a greater emphasis on test scores. 

"It's just a number. So, it doesn't say, ‘Okay well maybe he needs help in division, but he did really well on the multiplication part. So, let’s see where we can help him.’ It just gives them a number and that just seems ridiculous to me," Savastino said. 

ELA exams are scheduled from April 1 through April 3 and math tests will be held from April 30 through May 2.

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