Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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Some Parents Want Kids To Opt Out Of Standardized Tests

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Education officials say that new state tests will be much better at measuring how students are doing, but a growing number of parents say they don't want their children to take any standardized tests at all. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

When elementary and middle school kids are given the new, more difficult state tests next week, officials expect some students will refuse to pick up their number 2 pencils.

It's a boycott planned by parents, who say they are frustrated with standardized tests and test prep.

"We want to stop high-stakes testing," said one parent.

The parents call it "opting out," and for the past few years, a small number of families have participated, either telling schools not to give the tests to their children or keeping kids home during test time. The city says just over 100 students "opted out" last year.

"It's on my radar screen, but I'm not concerned," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

But it seems the city and state actually are more concerned this year. Both agencies released documents this week addressing the "opt out" issue, and the New York State School Board Association sent school districts legal advice, calling it "The Opt-Out Movement" and saying "School districts in New York are likely to face an increasing number of requests" this year.

Are parents allowed to opt out of state exams? Officials say there is nothing in state law or policy that lets parents make that decision.

"The assessments are a required part of the academic program, just like science class or math class," said State Education Commissioner John King.

The state says schools are required to give students the tests, even if they bring a letter from their parents asking it not to. But Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said educators will respect the parents' choices.

"They are the parent. It is their child," Mulgrew said. "Let's be clear here. It's their child. We can't say, 'We're going to make your kid take a test if you don't want your child to take a test.' We do not have that right. And that's why this is a serious situation, and I hope the Department of Education is putting together plans for dealing with it."

The city is making plans, telling schools that students who refuse to take the tests should be given "another instructional activity, such as reading." That's exactly what participating parents hope schools do.

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