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Majority against opting out of state tests

While official numbers are not in yet, reports indicate many students in New York school districts have opted out of this year’s the Common Core standardized tests.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll think parents who chose to opt their children out of the Common Core standardized tests made the wrong decision.

And a majority—52 percent—said they support the Common Core educational standards. This is virtually unchanged from a year ago when the same question was put to RBJ Daily Report readers.

More than 1 million New York school pupils in grades 3-8 were scheduled to take English tests last week and math tests this week. But the Associated Press reports that the refusal rate in some districts is as high as 60 percent to 70 percent. State education officials have warned that failing to ensure 95 percent participation could result in federally mandated sanctions that might include withholding a district’s programmatic funds.

Opponents say the tests are excessive and will not help improve student performance. NYS Allies for Public Education, for example, maintains the “standardized assessments are aligned with unproven reforms neither supported by rigorous research nor vetted by educators and parents.”

Supporters of the tests say, however, that the assessments are a tool to measure what students know in order to help them improve. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, noting that “fewer than 40 percent of New York students are considered college-ready when they graduate high school,” says parents and educators “have an obligation to use standardized assessments to shine a light on how best to support students.”

Debate over the tests intensified this year when Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed basing 50 percent of teacher evaluations on state exams, up from 20 percent. The approved 2015-16 budget gives the state Education Department final say on the percentage.

Roughly 620 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted April 20 and 21.

Some parents have decided their children should opt out of the Common Core standardized tests. In your view, have they made the right decision?
Yes:  43%
No:  57%

In general, do you support or oppose the Common Core educational standards?
Support:  52%
Oppose:  48%

For information on how the Snap Polls are conducted, click here.

COMMENTS:
Do we need assessments? Absolutely. But let’s have assessments based on an educational platform that is developmentally appropriate, evidence-based, transparent, rigorous and without significant corporate/political conflict of interest. Common Core (and, yes, I have actually read the standards) is none of these things. Did I opt my children out of a sub-par educational platform’s testing? Absolutely. Unfortunately, it is one of the very few options left for a parent to voice change in a public education system where decision-making is increasingly being wrenched away from local districts and being mandated from the top down by individuals who possess no educational experience and refuse to listen to their constituents. Our children, and we as taxpayers, deserve better.
—Ben Murphy, parent, Fairport

It’s not like kids are being asked to donate a body part here—take the test! No reasonable person can argue that doing what we have been doing is producing a result we can live with. Give Common Core a chance to make a difference, and if it does not, then try something else.
—Duane Piede

It is not Common Core that is at fault. Preparing our children to think critically, solve problems, read and write is vital to their success and the future of the world. It is the poor implementation by the state and the quality, relevance and number of so many tests and having those test results impact teacher assessments that is the problem. Time in the classroom should be spent on actual education (reading, writing, math, social studies, art, music, research, science, technology, etc.), not test preparation! Opting out of the tests is the only way that parents can voice their disapproval of this needless testing. Projects and portfolios are much better and more accurate assessments of students’ work and growth, as well as the effectiveness of instruction.
—Sandy Johnson

The Regents and the New York Board of Education continually ignore ideas from educators, parents and the community on how to increase the graduation rate. Just test, test, test. Who is to say that their test is an accurate measurement of the students’ knowledge? Every year there is a problem with some Regents test where massive amounts of students don’t pass it. New York should have one education organization, not two. Students should have a broader choice of subjects to take. Tech classes and the trades should be added for those who are interested in this. The poverty in New York is impacting education. Not everyone should be expected to go to college. There should be choices for the students. The parents are sending a clear signal to these organizations. They are voting their confidence in them by protesting the extreme testing.
—Jennifer Apetz

Wegmans invests heavily in their employees—hiring the right people and training them thoroughly. With schools, politicians just attack teachers over and over again, expecting somehow that things will get better. Maybe the lesson is to provide the best possible training, professional development and support for teachers and principals; let them at schools and leave them alone! In the meantime, politicians should find a way to tackle poverty instead of lining their own pockets.
—Brian Kane

Opting out is a continuation of the dumbing of America.
—F.H. Greene

I oppose a national standard for education. This effort seems more likely to drive performance to the lowest denominator, rather than raise performance to best practice. We should return to local standards, publishing the results so families can choose the school district best suited to their needs and hold the local school boards accountable for results.
—W.D. Levesque

We have refused the test for my children for the last year and this year. I do not disagree with assessment. I disagree with the way they are conducting it. The tests are at least six hours of testing. Past assessments were only an hour. Secondly, assessments should provide timely response to make changes if the child is not doing well. These tests come six to nine months later—after the child has been moved to another grade. It is not assessing the child; it is designed to assess the teachers and administration.
—Joel Stauring, Arkport

Districts should be free to set their own choices in curriculum. This should not be federally or state-mandated. While standardized testing is appropriate, the Common Core test may or may not be the best choice of tests at this time.
—Bill Pollock

Kids don’t opt out. The parents do, and these are most likely the same parents who won’t get their children vaccinated. Why? Because these parents believe that their kids are “special,” “talented” and therefore exempt from what the rest of the children are doing. Why is it that this generation of parents somehow thinks their children took a big intellectual leap that no other generation has ever seen before? I am sure at some point they will have the joy of their own discovery.
—Ian Cunningham

After researching the origins and usefulness of these tests and the reform agenda of which they are a part, my husband and I determined that the tests do not benefit our child or his teachers. The tests are extremely lengthy, flawed and are not created by educators. They are based on standards that were not created by educators. Data from the flawed assessments is used to make decisions about teachers and schools, in ways it should not be used. Until state education employs a program that takes into account child development and legitimate educational best practices, our family will not participate in these tests.
—Marie Little, instructional design consultant

A little non-violent civil disobedience is a healthy thing, and it happens all the time. When you drive over 65 on the Thruway (come on, you do it all the time), use fireworks on the Fourth of July or (more seriously) when gun owners refuse to register under the SAFE Act (likely 90 percent of them don’t), we are engaging in civil disobedience against unjust or unreasonable laws—and there are a lot of them. Parents who keep their kids out of the Common Core tests are doing what Americans have done for 240 years—starting with the Tea Party and the Revolution—standing up to Authority when Authority is wrong.
—Bob Sarbane

It is one of the few ways the constituents of public education can let their will be known to a governor and state education commissioner more easily influenced by financial contributions from Pierson Publishing (maker of the tests) and others with interests adverse to public education than by those who actually pay the taxes.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster

The tests provide no value to parents, students or teachers. Results are uninformative—simply a score with no delineation of what a child’s strengths or weaknesses are—and untimely, arriving after the school year is over. And the content of the tests is often inappropriate for the developmental level of the students being tested. And guess what—the kids know that the tests don’t count for their grades or for promotions. Parents and teachers want tests that inform instruction and provide formative as well as summative evaluation data.
—Tom Gillett, NYSUT

Common Core, like “No Child Left Behind,” is overreach by the federal government. There are no articles in the U.S. Constitution that empowers the federal government to be involved in local education. New York should remove itself from participating in it.
—Keith Griswold

All children are different. While most students may produce accurate assessments via the Common Core tests, some students are wired differently. Einstein flunked out of several courses and his teachers believed him to be mentally deficient. He probably would not have scored well on Common Core. Also, I think too much pressure is put on the teachers to have the students do well on the tests. A good teacher will find a way to engage their students, regardless of how they are wired. The Common Core pressure doesn’t really leave that avenue open.
—Joseph Fabetes, Rochester

This issue is too complex for simple yes/no, black-or-white questions. There are two main issues involved: 1. The Common Core curriculum is terrible. I was educated as an engineer, so my math background is very strong. I have seen multiple examples of the Common Core math tests and curriculum. There is no way this curriculum prepares students for advanced math education. There is too much emphasis on drawings and graphical representations. It’s as if the curriculum was designed by a committee dominated by art majors. The other area where Common Core’s curriculum is flawed is the history area. Much of it seems to be written by people who want to push a cause and are not actually interested in history. 2. Testing as part of teacher evaluation is clearly needed. Teachers need to be accountable just like everyone else. Given how bad the Common Core curriculum is, I’m not sure how fair this test is as an evaluation tool. A great teacher who teaches real math or history will score low, even though she is doing a great job of educating her students. I think the real problem is letting the federal government run education. We need more local control, with the states providing support.
—Dennis Ditch

I haven’t been able to find any rigorous statistical basis for this curriculum or test set. I have seen credible basis for rejecting this curriculum and test set. For example, Pittsford schools don’t improve their outcome and are not likely to do so with a 99 percent graduation rate and 98 percent college acceptance rate. Yet improvement in outcome is required for good performance. This all needs to be rethought and a program based upon facts and what is best for children be established.
—David Rubin

There are many factors that go into how well students do on tests. Most of the responsibility has to start in the home. After that, the teachers have to present the material in a clear and concise manner that the students can understand. I feel there is value in being able to use a standard test for basic studies across the entire state. It will yield useful information and will probably point to a need to educate the parents.
—Mark Williams

Parents and teachers want education reform that is led and vetted by educators, tested and proven before it hits the classroom, and uses the full range of assessment tools to measure our students rather than simply throwing standardized test after standardized test at them. NYSED has not been listening. They are still not listening. Parents will continue to make waves until NYSED agrees to meaningful change.
—Loy Gross, United to Counter the Core

Here we go, the two-sided sword: What makes parents an authority on the educational system; the other side is, what is the point in taking the tests if nothing is done with them? We are so concerned with being educationally competitive in the global market, why the opposition here?
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

I’m not well versed on all the testing, but it seems both sides are overreacting and using hyperbole and social media. At some point we still test people in very hard tests, to get into college, to get in grad school, to get some jobs post. And preparation is significant. Tests can be stressful and hard, but that’s not a reason to avoid them. Now over-testing or an invalid test with over-prep is a concern, I agree. Need a balance—so lacking on most topics these days.
—D. Giambattista, Fairport

When there is a school superintendent in the Rochester area who cannot even pronounce “transportation” correctly, the issues in local education are much deeper than standards.
—Jerry McCabe, Irondequoit

I am going to opt out of leaving a comment.
—Keith Newcomer

Appropriate testing is teacher or school developed, administered in a positive environment, and results are delivered to the teacher in a timely manner to allow for the teacher to adjust the learning activities for individual students. The standardized tests being administered this month return aggregated results (that is, the teacher will not see the performance outcomes of individual students)—not that it matters anyway, as the results will come back long after the students have moved on to a new classroom. Without the value of timely information about individual learners, it’s absolutely wrong that the time that ends up being devoted to preparation for this sort of testing takes away from time for the rich learning experience that our community’s children deserve. No research indicates that increasing the time and stakes associated with standardized testing positively impacts teachers’ practice and students’ learning opportunities. There is evidence, however, that extensive high-stakes testing damages teacher morale and stresses professional relationships within schools, ultimately damaging the faith and trust that families place in our teachers and academic leaders.
—Christine Corrado

The concept of common educational standards is a valid and worthy goal. However, reducing this to a set of tests which are standard makes no sense at all. Teachers are different and students are different which require different teaching methods and outcome measurements. By forcing these test results on teachers as a significant part of determining whether they will continue to have a career is a drastic mistake. You remove from the process all of the teacher’s individual skills and talents in knowing how to deliver a particular lesson to a particular group of students. The students change every year and we need to depend on our skilled educators to determine the best methods for imparting that knowledge.
—Alan Ziegler, Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation

As a parent and taxpayer, I have not yet heard a compelling reason why my child (or any other child) should test. The tests have not been proven to be valid measures of anything. The results do not come in in a timely manner to be helpful for my child. At best, the results (of a school) could be used to help inform instruction for a school. Why would I subject my child to a test that could do her harm for some potential benefit for the school? What will New York State ask me to do next? Subject my child to medical tests, so that experimental drugs can be tested?
—Tara Preteroti

I am sick and tired of my kids being used as "guinea pigs" in the corporate world that the government is banking off of. We are scaring off teachers and any potential teachers coming out of college. Our kids are better off with a wide variety of subjects and not just two main ones. We are taking away any chance of them to express themselves creatively. Two tests should not deem a teacher effective or ineffective. We need teachers to teach for the kids, not for the test! We need teachers to write age appropriate tests, not government lackeys creating age-inappropriate tests!
—Sara Dellaquila

I went through 14 years of school education, having tests about every week, testing me and everyone else to determine where we were deficient. This information was used to focus on us students to teach us that what we did not know. Never were teachers and school systems punished for our deficiency. Common-Core testing must be enforced to all. The problem: the governor instantly used the Common Core results to blame teachers and school systems. There is no support to focus on the students and on teaching them what they do not know. Instead, the Common Core is a political dagger to withdraw teacher payment and financial support of the school districts. The teachers’ unions rightfully fought this approach. The teaching of students presently is a huge mess. There is no serious approach to separate students according to their capabilities and focus to teach them for success in life. The high school diplomas do not provide focused education toward degrees that lead to meaningful and lasting jobs. Presently,
transition to universities, colleges and community colleges mostly leads to an overwhelming financial burden for the rest of the students’ life. Having had my children in this environment, I have been disappointed about the useless results of the whole educational system. Opting students out of Common Core and other “core” tests is the dumbest decision, since it deprives the educational professionals to focus on all students to improve their knowledge.
—Ingo H. Leubner

The Common Core standards and tests should have been introduced gradually starting with the lower grades allowing teachers and students to grow into them and giving administrators opportunity to make adjustments on the basis of real-life experience.
—Roy Kiggins, Seneca Falls

In my opinion, Common Core is simply a way to politicize our education system even more and place more control of a large facet of our daily lives under control of the "ruling" parties (both Democrats and Republicans), neither of which has shown an ability to "get things right." Our state and federal governments are inherently dysfunctional or inept in most endeavors they undertake. They should keep their noses out of the education system. The Federal Department of Education should be disbanded (maybe the first real cut in government expenditures) and Albany should concentrate on cleaning up their own house before they inflict themselves on every school in the state more than they already have. Let education be run by the localities. How else can parents voice their objections when the election system is rigged by the heavy metropolitan influence on the state?
—Keith B. Robinson, Diamond Packaging

It is appropriate that there is public/parental scrutiny of state involvement in public education in New York. The private sector will tell you that what you measure and how you measure it is critical to improving any process. Current New York testing is clearly a failed model; raising the stakes on what was already problematic high stakes testing is hardly in the best interests of the children. Gov. Andrew Cuomo lacks both the education and management credentials to take over our schools. Rarely are the challenges for students in failing schools due to the competency of the teacher in the classroom. We help our children most when we tackle the true root causes. On a related note, the public comment period for input on developing new teacher evaluation standards is currently open. Your opinion should be sent directly to NYSED at: eval2015@nysed.gov
—Juli Klie, Veritor

Common Core is yet another example of the state and federal governments’ micromanaging the education of our children using a "one-size-fits-all" approach, and bullying the school boards, educators, and parents with threats to withhold financial aid. We should oppose it vigorously, and return to local control of our schools!
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.

From the perspective of a longtime city resident, I am concerned that a great deal of time, money and public focus is being squandered when the real challenge facing this community is the abysmal graduation rate among city kids. Many of the suburban districts are already doing what they are supposed to do: graduate their students and prepare them for the workplace and/or higher education. Over-testing of students avoids the real issues.
—Dan Karin

It’s a parent’s civil right to opt their children out of these exams. The tests are developmentally inappropriate. The tests do not count for the students’ grades. The students and parents get no feedback regarding the tests. The tests are not published, released and teachers have gag orders not to discuss them. They serve no academic purpose for the students.
—Dawn Hohmann

In the (poll text there was a typo), you called Andrew Cuomo, Mario Cuomo. There is some difference, but you’re right there isn’t much difference. We might as well call it "CuomoCore." School testing should be locally based, not nationally based. If the schools want to use Common Core as a guide, then so be it, but don’t shove Common Core down our collective throats.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.

4/24/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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