While parents in Kings Park debate the value of standardized tests for elementary and middle school students, the conversation has focused around one key question.
Can parents choose to not have their children take these tests, known as "opting out"?
The term refers to the question of whether parents can choose to have their children in grades 3 through 8 not take the upcoming state standardized tests, which are designed to measure proficiency in English and math based on the new "common core" school curriculum. The common core curriculum, adopted by 42 states so far, is a national standard to align student learning and better prepare them for college and careers.
On Facebook, a handful of "opt out" groups have formed, like this one here, in which parents share information, resources, opinions and anecdotes regarding the idea that their children can refuse to participate in the testing. However, according to this article published by the New York State Association of School Attorneys, New York State education law does not allow for opting out of the tests except in certain special education circumstances.
Supporters of the "opt out" movement say the testing is too stressful for kids and it takes away valuable classroom time that could be spent focusing on the curriculum rather than on test prep. Some also say the lower passing scores will lead to low self-esteem in students who may feel upset for performing "poorly" on the tests.
Via the Kings Park Patch Facebook page, community members had this to say:
Irene Davis-Gilbert is an educator and a mother of a student who has to take the tests.
“I am with a group of educators as we speak discussing that exact topic,” she said. “Personally, as an educator, and a parent I don't agree with the way these tests are constructed (270 minutes and sometimes more) not to determine reading comprehension, rather what we do with the information once we have read something.”
As a mother she also worries about the effect the tests have on her daughter.
“As a mom, I comforted my third grader just last night,” Davis-Gilbert said. “She's paranoid about the exams. Should I opt her out, or not? I lose sleep each night debating that. It won't benefit her either way!”
Daniel Mcdonald said testing needs to be done but can be administered differently.
“Life is all about being tested whether a reading exam or the tests of being an adult, a spouse, a parent,” Mcdonald said. “Personally I don’t think there is enough testing. However, I do believe that the way in which we test should be altered to remove the anxieties of test taking to provide accurate assessments of our children.”
Krista A. Briggs does not agree.
“Standardized testing is hardly an authentic means of assessment,” she said. “That a student is a poor test-taker does not necessarily mean that the test-taker is a poor student. Let's stop teaching to the test and employ genuine, creative methods of learning. There are myriad methods of assessment. Let's explore a variety of means and nurture a real love of learning -- in the classroom and beyond.”
“It needs to change,” said Doris Meme Ligotti. “Let our taxes go to educating the children not bowing to an antiquated testing method that proves nothing.”
Laura Gennett Scott agreed with Briggs.
“They need to assess the students, but it doesn't have to be with standardized tests that stress the kids out.”
A meeting on the topic of standardized testing – which will feature discussion by retired educators, school attorneys and the founder of one of the "opt out" Facebook pages – is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Willow Creek Golf and Country Club in Mount Sinai.
What's your take on student testing? Do you support the idea that parents should be allowed to opt out of the testing for their children? Log in to Patch and share your thoughts as a comment below.