Taking the Test … or Not

Like all school districts in the state, those in the Highlands administered the Common Core English language arts tests to students in grades 3 to 8 on March 28-30, and as occurred last year, a significant percentage of parents opted not to have their children take the exam. (The state math exams will be given May 2-4.)

In 2014 about 5 percent of New York students did not take the test, but that number has since grown to about 20 percent statewide. In parts of Long Island, opt-out rates top 50 percent, with some districts approaching 80 percent. Battles lines have been drawn between advocacy groups such as the NYS Allies for Public Education (“You can refuse the test”) and High Achievement New York (“Say yes to the test”).

Parents may hold their children out of the tests (they are given something else to do) because they oppose them in principle, because their child has a learning disability, or because the child does not read English well. According to data compiled by the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the percentage of students who don’t take the test because of learning disabilities has ranged from zero in Haldane last year to 40 percent in Garrison in 2015. Few of the children who don’t take the test in the Highlands cite language challenges (0 to 3 percent).

Common Core test results will not be tied to teacher evaluations in New York until at least the 2020-21 school year.

Opt-out Rates on ELA Test (%)

Haldane

2015 – 16
2016 – 18
2017 – 91

Garrison

2015 – 17
2016 – 26
2017 – 29

Beacon

2015 – 30
2016 – 33
2017 – 332

Carmel

2015 – 38
2016 – 44
2017 – 37

Lakeland

2015 – 33
2016 – 43
2017 – 43

Putnam Valley

2015 – 33
2016 – 35
2017 – 28

1. Haldane: 3.4 percent opted out in grades 3 to 5 and 14.4 percent in grades 6 to 8.

2. Elementary numbers in Beacon ranged from 16 percent at Glenham to 27 percent at Forrestal. At Rombout Middle School, it was 45 percent.

Source: NYSED “District Level Test Refusal” for ELA, 2015, 2016; school districts

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