Parents count 30,000 Common Core ‘opt outs,’ state answers with ‘opt-ins’
ALBANY—By the reckoning of a group of parent-activists, more than 30,000 students outside New York City refused to take the state's federally required, Common Core-based state exams.
Parents, connected by social media, circulated a spreadsheet all week and encouraged each other to call local superintendents and update the running tally of students who “opted out” of the Common Core-aligned English tests, which were administered in third through eighth grades Tuesday through Thursday. The spreadsheet now 30,267 shows students refusing.
That number is about twice the number of students that refused to take the test last year, when some parents objected to the tougher exams, partly out of concern that the results would be used unfairly against teachers, and partly in protest of the attendant time spent on test-prep, which they saw as detracting from their childrens' education.
A state official, without verifying the numbers, pointed out that that would still be a relatively small percentage of the overall number of students who took the test.
“There's no evidence that these claims are true, but even if they were—nearly 1.2 million students are taking the assessments; we would be at 98 percent participation,” said Dennis Tompkins, spokesman for the State Education Department, in an email. “This year, like last year, the parents of more than a million students across the state will 'opt-in' to find out how well their children are doing.”
The tests are designed to produce objective data for the state on how students, teachers and schools are performing under the new curriculum guidelines.
Last year about one percent of students were marked as “not tested,” officials said, which includes students who “opted out,” as well as those who had medically excused absences or took alternative assessments, such as tests for English-language learners or students with severe disabilities.
Even if verified, likely not all of the students who parents count as having declined to take the tests would count in those “not tested” percentages. Some students took tests the first day but refused the second and third days, as more parents decided to participate in the protest.
Students who began but did not finish taking exams would be scored, and their scores would likely be very low.
The numbers of "opt-outs" could affect federal funding for school districts and educator evaluations. If a district doesn't hit 95 percent participation overall or in certain demographic groups, it could lose some Title I funding. Student scores are counted toward teacher and principal evaluations.
According to Jeanette Deutermann, a Long Island parent who started a Facebook group with information about the “opt out” movement, the spreadsheet is the collaborative handiwork of a network of parent-activists statewide who came together last summer in opposition to the tests. The group they formed, New York State Allies of Public Education, is volunteer-driven and does not accept donations.