As students across New York state wrap up the first week of Common Core testing and prepare for another, an assemblyman is reminding parents of their right to opt their children out of the test — a provision that would be protected in a bill he introduced last March.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, the sponsor of the Common Core Refusal Act, is again expressing his support for the opt-out movement. His bill (A.6025-a) would require school districts to make clear to parents that they have the right to opt their children out of the standardized tests.
Critics of the tests, including one of the state’s largest teachers’ unions, say the exams cause undue stress, take up valuable learning time, erode local control over school decisions and are misused for high-stakes decisions.
To date, more than 16,600 people have signed a petition at www.refusecommoncore.com in support of the bill.
Meanwhile, The New York State United Teachers has published a five-page “fact sheet” this year that spells out the rights and responsibilities of students, teachers, parents, school administrators and local leaders regarding the tests.
The State Education Department maintains there is no provision in state law that allows students to opt out of the tests. Students who refuse to take the tests are in fact allowed to read quietly, or “sit-and-stare” which critics say is a problem.
“When you have to have memos sent to parents about how to counsel students that are preparing for the tests, there is obviously a problem,” Tedisco said.
His bill would ensure a universal system for districts to notify parents in writing of their right to opt their children out of any standardized test used for the purposes of complying with the Common Core learning standards.
The legislation would also prohibit punitive measures for test refusal against a particular district in the form of withheld state aid; a particular school within a district for low participation rates; a teacher when evaluating his or her performance; or a student for not participating. Likewise, the legislation would prohibit students who choose to participate from being rewarded.
Additionally, students not participating in the exams would be provided with an “alternate educational activity” while the test is being administered.
Common Core test results have been used to determine the individual skills of the students, the performance of teachers and the ranking of the entire school district overall. Parents and teachers disapproved of the tests as they increased stress on students and teachers.
School districts have been told there was a possibility of penalization if student participation did not reach a specific rate. However, New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is advocating for students to participate, citing important adjustments from previous tests.
Elia announced the adjustments in January after an estimated 240,000 students across the state opted-out last year. Changes to this year’s tests include a review by at least 22 state educators, unlimited time to complete the exams and fewer questions.
These revisions are temporary adjustments as the state works to develop more permanent reforms by the 2019-2020 school year.
The Common Core Refusal Act (S.4161-a) is sponsored by Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown, in the Senate.