The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Guest Column

March 29, 2014

Don't opt-in for high-stakes testing

If you are the parent of a child in grades 3-8, then you know that the focus of education has shifted to the upcoming state tests in English Language Arts and Math, which start April 1. But did you know that you have the right to refuse these tests on your child’s behalf?

Last year, an unprecedented number of parents, fed up with excessive testing and accountability, boycotted the tests. This year again, record numbers will refuse to participate in this series of standardized, high-stakes tests.

Parents stand united to send a powerful message to the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) and the Board of Regents that they are sick of the stranglehold testing has over our schools. Throughout all corners of the Empire State, more than 45 parent and educator groups, comprised of tens of thousands of individual members, are focused on the upcoming testing season. In Oneonta, a growing number of parents are planning to refuse this year’s tests.

The refusal process is easy, and starts with a refusal letter that parents simply submit to their school indicating their decision to refuse state testing, and that their child will be coded as a ‘999’ or a refusal. This will result in a child receiving ‘no score’ according to NYSED’s own Student Information Repository System (SIRS) manual. Many districts, such as the Oneonta City School District, are accepting a parent’s letter on behalf of the student. These students will be automatically counted as refusals and allowed to read in an alternate location.

Refusal policies vary district by district, however. Parents are encouraged to contact their school administrators to inquire about how the district plans on handling test refusals.

There are no negative ramifications for students, teachers, or schools. Common myths that students will automatically fail, that a teacher’s evaluation will be negatively affected or that a district will lose money are simply not true.  The state tests have no bearing on a student’s report card, promotion, or graduation. ‘No scores’ from refusals are not used to calculate teacher accountability, according to the SIRS manual. Furthermore, teachers have reported that students of all abilities refused last year’s test, which means that a single refusal does not affect a teacher’s evaluation using growth scores.

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