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"Opting Out" Of Standardized Tests

11:05 PM, Apr 26, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - As thousands of students across New York State underwent a second week of standardized testing, there was a movement among some parents who oppose the tests to have their sons and daughters "opt out" of taking them.

For several years there has been grousing about educators having to "teach to the tests", which opponents feel don't measure a child's true ability in the first place, and how doing so wastes classroom time that could be used for learning other things.

Now there are national movements encouraging parents to refuse to allow their kids to take the tests with web sites featuring step by step instructions on how to do so.

"Parents can't see how the tests are graded, and there is a history of errors associated with these standardized tests," said Angela Engel, a leading proponent in the national movement to opt out, who spoke to WGRZ-TV from her home in Colorado.

"The well rounded education is going by the wayside now," claimed Chris Cerrone, a 7th grade social studies teacher in Hamburg, who feels so strongly that the standardized tests have gotten out of hand that he had his own daughter opt out.

For now, Cerrone insists there are no ramifications for students who decline to take the tests in most of New York State.

"It's considered a refusal...it's a non score. It doesn't count as a zero for the child or against the child. That child's score will simply not be put into the mix," Cerrone said.

However, that is not the case everywhere in the state.

"New York City, under mayor Bloomberg, has a system where the tests do count toward a student's promotion," Cerrone noted.

There is a thought, however, that the same state education officials who mandated standardized tests, may also soon mandate that they be an integral part of whether a student passes or fails a grade.

In some places where that has already occurred, parents have hired lawyers, or found other ways around it ....in what Engel calls "gaming the system".

"Parents simply un-enroll their kids from the school during that test time, then they re-enroll them where the tests are over," she said.

While agreeing that a child would not be held back on the basis of not taking a standardized test, NYS Board of Regents Chancellor Emeritus Robert M. Bennett called a decsion by a parent to have their child opt out a "poor one".

Speaking with Two On Your Side late Thursday, Bennett also suggested that any great amount of stress over the tests on the part of a child, was likely due to undue stress put upon them by adults, including teachers or parents.

"I tell my own gandkids that the test, while important, is nothing to worry about and they should just do the best they can," Bennett said, adding that test results only account for 20% of a teacher's total evaluation.

"I know of no instance where any teacher lost their job based on a student's poor performance on a standardized test," Bennett said.

At the same time some teachers have expressed the fear that states emphasizing standardized test scores will de-emphasis other subjects for which such tests do not exist.

"What's to stop a district facing tough fiscal times to decide not to teach music or art at all, if all that counts are the test scores for English and Math?" asked one of about 100 teachers, who gathered to protest the use standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluations outside The Buffalo Convention Center, as an annual gathering of the New York State United Teachers was about to begin.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher from Eden.
Click here to read Dave McKinley's blog.

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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