BUFFALO, NY - School districts are trying to protect the much-needed state and federal dollars they rely on. They're challenged by families who think there's too much testing in schools and refuse to allow their kids to take mandatory tests.
"I don't believe that they're an effective tool to evaluate children. I think it's a way for NYS to evaluate teachers. It's not helping our kids in school," said Gina Kemna. The North Tonawanda mother will not let her children take state tests scheduled after the Easter break.
Western New York for Public Education is holding a meeting on Thursday, April 4, 2013 at Kenmore Alliance Church, 175 Bonnett Avenue, 6:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
If there aren't enough students taking the exams and evaluations drop below required levels, then teachers and the district may get poor reviews. State law has put in effect a permanent system to evaluate teachers. And, if their reviews are bad, state and federal funding for districts could be reduced. This would result in various programs and perhaps staff positions being put into jeopardy.
"The parents who are choosing to opt their children out of state tests or any district test now, I don't agree with that, but it's not my right to disagree with them," said Mark Mondanaro, the superintendent for Ken-Ton School District.
Kemna believes "there's too much pressure on the children to test. They're sending home homework all year long on how to take the standardized tests."
Ken-Ton Schools are informing parents with online letters, not to opt out of assessment tests. District officials have instructed school principals to inform families that skipping the mandatory tests can affect the student's education, because teachers will not be sure how students are progressing. Mondanaro says that the district has also created a committee of teachers and administrators just to deal with test assessment issues within its schools.
"It's real life, welcome to it, you got to do some things in life that you don't want to do and you got to take some tests and the school needs to know how their students are progressing," said Mondanaro.
Ken-Ton Schools says its heard from a handful of parents saying they're not going to allow their children to take mandatory tests because they feel there's too much testing in schools already.
"The position that we take is the same as that is taken by the state that there is not an opt out provision -- that every child is expected to take standardized tests," said Dr. Pamela Brown, the superintendent for Buffalo Schools.
Among the many government dollars that the district has gotten and continues to receive, includes $2.5 million from the Race to the Top fund.
"It's real life, welcome to it, you gotta do some things in life that you don't want to do and you got to take some tests and the school needs to know how their students are progressing," said Mondanaro.
Mondanaro is also concerned that more parents will decide to opt out of tests.
The state Department of Education requires just about all students third grade and up to be assessed in some form. It's unclear how much districts could lose if this becomes a big problem.
According to state law, all school districts need to have a teacher assessment system by June 1st.