The debate over New York State Common Core standards continues with students from the Roslyn School District showing a mild resistance to the exams. According to the New York State Allies for Public Education, 176 Roslyn students opted out of the English Language Arts (ELA) exam, while all of the students in the district took the math exam.
Concerning testing, Roslyn made the news recently with a big splash as its students, in reading and science, surpassed those from the world’s highest ranking nations—Shanghai, China, Korea and Finland—in the highly competitive Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test.
The Common Core standards have caused great controversy in recent months, with local politicians registering their own opposition. In response to concerns from school officials, parents, and teachers regarding the level of testing administered to children in grades 3-8, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, last month, joined 12 of Long Island’s school district superintendents to present new legislation that would reduce the number of tests taken by students in grades 3-8.
“While some testing is essential to ensure that our students are actually learning what is being taught, I share the same concerns as many of our local superintendents and parents,” Israel said. “We are over-testing our students and stifling their creativity.”
This past year 1,136,069 students statewide took the Common Core ELA and Math assessments — a decrease of 45,000 from last year — according to the New York State Department of Education.
Part of the reason for this steady drop, stems from the ever-growing number of parents advocating that students “opt out” — or refuse to take the standardized tests.
Across Long Island, local opt out movements made a huge splash, with nearly 20,000 students — or ten percent of students in grades 3-8 — opting out, according to figures compiled by the New York State Allies for Public Education.
For Rep. Israel, the reason parents are so vehemently opposed to the Common Core, largely has to do with the amount of time spent preparing to take the exam. Israel said he believes that children need classroom time to learn knowledge, “not just how to take a test.”
So, Israel worked with many Long Island superintendents to draft legislation allowing states to choose an alternative testing schedule for students, which will curb the amount of tests they have to take while still reflecting their abilities and the effectiveness of school districts.
Based on the feedback from local superintendents from the Roslyn, Hicksville, Manhasset, Half Hallow Hills, Commack, Westbury, Port Washington, Huntington, Glen Cove, Oyster Bay and Hauppague school districts, Israel drafted the Tackling Excessive Standardized Testing (TEST) Act, with the goal of reflecting a student’s abilities without subjecting them to over-testing.
The TEST Act consists of three sections: The first section sets the standard that students in grades 3 through 8 would only be required to take one test per year.
According to Israel, the legislation would split the number of exams, requiring students in grades 3, 5 and 7 only be given the English Language Arts assessment, while students in grades 4, 6 and 8 be given the mathematics assessment. Currently, students have to take both ELA and math tests each year.
The second section calls for schools that rank in the top 15 percent in the state, on all of the ELA or math exams, be allowed to move to a four-year testing cycle. In addition, the tests must have a 75 percent passing rate based on the raw scores. For these schools, ELA would be tested in grades 3 and 7, and math in grades 4 and 8.
Lastly, while current law dictates students with limited proficiency in the English language, may take mandated tests in their own language, the new legislation proposes test results on these mandated exams not be included in accountability measures.
Roslyn’s opt out rates in the ELA portion of the test were higher than in such neighboring school districts, but much lower in the math test, where, as noted, the participation was 100 percent. In Herricks, for instance, 39 students opted out of the ELA, while 74 did not take the math test.
In East Williston, the opt out rates were 75 students in ELA and 60 in math. Manhasset and Mineola had the lowest numbers, with six Manhasset students opting out of ELA and 10 doing the same in the math test. In Mineola, eight students did not take the ELA test. But as with Roslyn, not a single Mineola student missed the math test.