Spin Cycle

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Upcoming standardized tests for students across the state are carrying increased political charge. Leaders of the state federation of teacher union locals vowed Monday to "provide guidance and support to parents -- or parent groups -- unfairly singled out or harassed for advocating the right to opt out" of the tests.

Here's the announcement from NYSUT:

New York State United Teachers president Richard C. Iannuzzi today called on school districts to abandon educationally unsound and unconscionable policies that force students whose parents have decided to opt them out of state testing to “sit and stare” instead of providing them with a constructive alternative.

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At least 15 school districts on Long Island — and, reportedly, others statewide — have recently adopted or are considering such damaging policies ahead of April’s state standardized testing in English Language Arts and math, Iannuzzi said.

“NYSUT strongly condemns the policy of ‘sit and stare’,” Iannuzzi said. “This policy aimed at students whose parents elect to ‘opt out’ their children from state standardized testing is unconscionable. It would be spiteful and counterproductive for any school district to require an administrator or teacher to direct a child to ‘sit and stare’ at a blank desk while other students are taking exams because of a choice made by a parent.”

Iannuzzi added, “This is cruel to those students not taking the exam and a distraction and disservice to those who are attempting to complete it. Punishing or embarrassing children because their parents exercised their right to choose not to have their children participate in tests they consider inappropriate is, frankly, abusive.”

NYSUT vice president Maria Neira called on the Regents and State Education Department to deliver to school districts clear guidance that protects children against detrimental and abusive testing policies. “This is an opportunity for the Regents and State Education Department to step in and protect students from harmful policies that result from parents exercising their right to decide what’s best for their child,” she said.

NYSUT strongly supports a parent’s right to “opt out” of state standardized tests if the parent believes state testing is inappropriate and may be harmful to his or her child.

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Iannuzzi said the union would provide guidance and support to parents — or parent groups — unfairly singled out or harassed for advocating the right to opt out and added, “We will vigorously defend any NYSUT members who are subject to any negative employment considerations for choosing to opt out their own child or who advocate, to the extent permitted by law, for others who opt out of state standardized tests.”