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Opinion

April 11, 2014

In Our Opinion: Next step needed in Common Core battle

If the decision by some local parents to have their children opt out of state testing was meant to send a message to Albany, it may be working. 

Fewer than 1 percent of students in third through eighth grades statewide chose not to take the state-mandated English Language Arts tests administered in early April — not earth-shattering numbers, by any means. However, the opt-out rate at some individual schools was so high that state officials nevertheless felt moved to clarify the federal guidelines for participation. 

The feds require a 95 percent participation rate to ensure that schools are making “adequate yearly progress.” This benchmark, which was developed as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, can trigger interventions by the state Department of Education to correct perceived problems. 

In other words, it gets Albany’s attention — which is exactly what those protesting the Common Core want. 

This year, with opt-out rates as high as 70 percent at some schools, state education officials stressed the fact that test scores are only one measure of the “Good Standing” that schools often must achieve to receive particular grants, and that one year of high opt-out rates would not be enough to require the state to step in. 

Parents’ reasons for opting their children out of these tests are no doubt varied. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said in a media release that he is opting his children out because he believes “our students should spend more time learning and less time testing.” Teacher Ken Sider said he supports the opt-out movement because “I see no good reason to voluntarily participate in a testing system that is not only anxiety-producing and unjust, but optional.” Parent Christiana Gomez-Frye told The Daily Star that having her two children opt out is a form of protest against the faulty implementation of Common Core, and an opportunity for a lesson in critical thinking. 

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