Students use Chromebooks in a class at Elwood Middle School...

Students use Chromebooks in a class at Elwood Middle School on March 29. The district was among 29 systems on Long Island that decided to give the computer-based English Language Arts test this year in at least some grades. Credit: Barry Sloan

More than 75,000 of Long Island's public school students in grades three through eight refused to take the state English Language Arts exam during the testing period that ended Friday, according to data gathered from 103 of the 124 districts across Nassau and Suffolk counties.

That was 47.2 percent of students eligible to take the ELA in those school systems, according to the figures submitted in response to Newsday's survey about test participation.

In Suffolk, 46,861 students of 83,831 eligible in the responding districts, or 55.9 percent, refused to participate. In Nassau, 28,651 students of 76,244 eligible in those systems, or 37.6 percent, sat out the tests. 

The level of boycotts shows that opposition to the state tests remains strong on the Island. In April 2018, test refusals on the ELA reached 49.1 percent, according to a Newsday survey that brought responses from 115 districts. The statewide test-refusal average last year was 18 percent, according to the state Education Department.

The time frame for districts to give the digital ELA — a period set by the department — started April 1 and ended Friday. It was four days longer than scheduled because of technical glitches last week that forced a temporary statewide suspension of the computer-based tests, or CBTs. The department extended the testing period for districts that had committed to giving the electronic version.

Districts gave computer-based exams and the traditional paper-and-pencil tests over two consecutive days of their choosing within the state-designated time windows. The paper-based exams were given on two days from April 2-4.

About one-quarter of school districts on the Island had scheduled digital ELA testing last week in at least some grades, and most were affected by the technical difficulties. The state said database servers for Questar Assessments Inc., the Minneapolis-based company responsible for the exams, broke down under heavy usage.

“After the corrective measures implemented last week, the remainder of computer-based testing generally went well with more than 184,000 students across New York completing CBT ELA tests," Emily DeSantis, an Education Department spokeswoman, said Friday in a statement.

"Again, we would like to thank students, parents, teachers and administrators for their patience and support as we worked through the difficulties that occurred," she said. "We regret the hardship these difficulties placed on school communities. We are holding Questar accountable for its failure to deliver the services required in our contract with them.”  

Education Department officials said that schools in three districts that originally registered to administer the digital ELA test had switched to paper-based exams. None of those schools was on Long Island.

In addition, as of Friday morning, 48 schools in 25 districts that initially registered to give the digital state math test in grades three through eight had decided to give the paper-based exam instead. The Franklin Square and Oceanside districts, both in Nassau County, were among them. Officials in the two school systems could not be reached late Friday.

About 730 schools statewide remain registered to administer the computer-based math tests, state officials said. Districts giving the digital test have set two consecutive days in the state-designated time frame of April 30 through May 7. For the paper-based test, districts have chosen two consecutive days from May 1 through May 3.

Each year, more than 1.1 million students across New York are eligible to sit for the ELA and math exams. About 200,000 of those are in the Island's schools. Districts are required by federal law to give the exams annually in grades three through eight.

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