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Long IslandEducation

Mom gets 3-year jump on opting out of Common Core tests

Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Kindergartner Brayden Perry of Greenlawn is 5 and has three years to go before he becomes eligible as a third-grader to take his first state tests in English language arts and math.

His mother, Jessica Perry, isn’t waiting for that.

She feels so strongly about what she perceives as defects in the state’s standardized testing system that she emailed school administrators in the Harborfields district last week to say she never will allow her son to take such exams.

Her opposition hardened in October, she said, when she received a note from Brayden’s school, informing her that the 5-year-old needs to spend more time practicing how to fill in bubbles on a test-answer sheet.

“My son does not have to practice filling in bubbles, but this is being pushed down on him,” said his mother, a former primary schoolteacher. “I don’t have a problem with standards. I do have a problem with standards that aren’t developmentally appropriate.”

Harborfields officials declined to comment.

New York State’s annual Common Core tests for students in grades three through eight commence this week, and districts expect the exam season will bring a fifth consecutive year of boycotts.

Across the state, test resistance is fueled by social media sites such as LI Opt Out, where teachers and parents swap information on exam questions, state education policies and related topics.

Among the fiercest test opponents are parents who have worked in school classrooms, thus experiencing effects of standardized assessments from two sides.

Tara Dobbin of Seaford is another such mom. She taught third grade upstate for two years, stopped temporarily to raise two children and then started job-hunting again, but decided not to return to the classroom.

The reason, she said, was what she heard from friends who also were teachers, talking about how pressures stemming from tests made their jobs less enjoyable.

“A lot of my friends were saying, ‘Now everything is from a book, you’re teaching to the test,’ ” she recalled.

Dobbin now works for an automotive technology company and said she finds the job creative. She has opted-out her daughter, Lilli, a fourth-grader, from state tests this year and last.

Officials in the state Education Department said they are sensitive to complaints that Common Core tests were rushed into place, starting in 2013, without screening of questions by local teachers. Those officials added that they have taken recent steps to address such issues, and that next year’s tests will include questions written by teachers.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, speaking last week to a regional meeting of school personnel administrators in Westbury, noted that opposition to state testing arose years before she took the state’s top school post in July 2015.

Making corrections takes time, she said, asking for patience.

“We didn’t get into the spot we’re in one-and-a-half years ago,” Elia said. “It took five, six years. It’s going to take some time to transition out. Change too quick just brings chaos.”


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