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City Students Begin Common Core Tests As Testing Debate Continues

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Students in grades three through eight began taking state tests Tuesday while parents and teachers continued to debate the value of standardized testing. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Last year, nobody knew what to expect when New York became one of the first states to test students based on new, more difficult learning standards called the Common Core.

It turns out that the tests were much harder, students' scores ended up much lower, and state officials have been dealing with the backlash from parents and teachers ever since.

This year, some students said they were a bit more prepared.

"Last year's test, there were a lot of sort of types of questions that were really tough, so our teachers worked with us on how to respond to them appropriately," said one student.

"This year, our humanities teacher gave us different sheets and practice tests to prepare for it," said another student.

The city said 425,000 students began taking the tests Tuesday, but there's an increasing number who won't be participating. Their parents call it "opting out."

"My decision to opt them out is because I feel that what they have learned throughout their school year does not reflect what is on the state test," said parent Johanna Perez.

Advocates estimate that more than 1,000 city students will opt out this year, more than triple the number from last year. Although state education officials insist that the tests are mandatory, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told city principals last week that they should respect the parents' decisions.

For the first time, at several city schools, the majority of students won't be tested, like at the Brooklyn New School, where 243 of 306 students opted out.

Then, there's P.S. 446 in Brownsville. For many years, the students in the building have had some of the lowest test scores in the city. Students were doing so badly that in 2008, the city closed the school and replaced it with two new schools. By last fall, the city was in the process of closing both of those schools as well.

P.S. 446 is the newest attempt to turn things around here, and this year's state test scores would have been the first chance to see how students are doing compared to the rest of the city and state, but parents said 48 out 60 students are opting out. Like other parents, they said that all the testing damages the quality of the education.

"It takes away from our children being well-rounded individuals," said parent Latoshia Wheeler. "It takes away from their love of learning. It takes away from their real-life experience."

Not having any test scores, though, will also take away one measure of whether this school is serving students any better than the schools it replaced.

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