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Common Core math test: 90,000-plus Long Island students opt out

A student in Fanicia Jordan's fifth-grade class at

A student in Fanicia Jordan's fifth-grade class at Ulysses Byas Elementary School in the Roosevelt school district takes the state Common Core math test on Thursday, May 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

This story was reported by Michael R. Ebert, Scott Eidler, John Hildebrand, Víctor Manuel Ramos and Joie Tyrrell. It was written by Tyrrell.

Wide-ranging boycotts of the state Common Core math test showed no sign of abating in Long Island’s public schools, as more than 90,000 students refused to take the exam this week, a Newsday survey that drew responses from 90 percent of districts showed.

In 112 school districts that reported test-refusal figures, 90,217 students in grades three through eight — 53.6 percent of those eligible to take the exam — opted out. There are 124 school districts on the Island.

Jeanette Deutermann, the North Bellmore mother of two who founded the Long Island Opt Out organization, Thursday reiterated an often-repeated mantra.

“Parents want real, comprehensive changes to the testing culture in our schools,” Deutermann said. “Until there is substantial change, we will continue to use opt out as a means to elevate our voices.”

The math exams began Tuesday for most students. The math test, like the English Language Arts exam administered in late March, is given in segments during three days. A few districts on the Island this year initiated computer-based tests, and some electronic testing began Monday.

This is the fifth consecutive year of boycotts that put New York State — and especially Long Island — in the national spotlight. Across Nassau and Suffolk counties, the number of refusals ballooned to about half of all eligible students both last year and in 2015, according to Newsday surveys in those years.

Last year, nearly 88,000 students in 106 districts that responded to a Newsday survey opted out of the math exam — nearly 53 percent of eligible students in the responding districts.

The state Education Department does not immediately release any data on the ELA or math assessments. The department has said it expects to provide information in July.

Carl Korn, spokesman for New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teacher union, said the agency must fully repair damage done by an over-reliance on invalid and inaccurate tests.

“The state Education Department’s process for remaking the standards — especially the way the department included parents and educators — shows we are making progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done before parents and educators are satisfied,” he said.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was traveling and not available for an interview Thursday, state education officials said.

The department released the same statement it has issued over the course of the ELA and math tests, saying that “it’s up to parents to decide what’s best for their children” in regard to taking the exams.

Earlier this week, Elia announced revisions in English and math learning standards for elementary and secondary schools statewide. The department has sought to make teachers and parents feel more comfortable with state assessments, through frequent regional meetings and encouragement of teams of teachers to help write questions.

Last year, the department shortened the exams, established a statewide moratorium until 2019-20 on using test scores in teachers’ job ratings, and included teachers in devising test questions.

High Achievement New York, a coalition of education, business and civic groups, said the test-refusal movement had flatlined on Long Island and declined across the state.

“Parents across New York understand that state math and English tests are one of the best tools teachers have to understand what their students have firmly grasped and where they need additional support,” the group said in a statement.

There is a significant difference in the number of students who take the math exam as compared with the ELA, because some middle school students in accelerated math classes may not sit for it.

The ELA exam, given the final week in March, was boycotted by more than 97,000 students in 116 districts on the Island that responded to Newsday’s survey — more than half of the eligible students in the responding districts.

In the Patchogue-Medford district, where more than 80 percent of eligible students boycotted the math test, Superintendent Michael J. Hynes said, “My hope is that the opt-out movement continues to open the eyes of NYSED and forces them to make the significant changes to this ‘test and punish’ practice.”

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