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More than half of LI students opt out of math assessments for grades 3-8

Students take state tests in prior years.

Students take state tests in prior years.   Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

More than half of students across 57 Long Island school districts in grades 3 through 8 opted out of taking the math assessments given earlier this month, a Newsday analysis found.

According to data collected from the districts, 55%, or 45,747 children, declined to take the assessment tests, which were given May 3-14. The data tracks closely to the opt-out rate on the English Language Arts tests given in April, when 52.5% of children across 61 districts did not take the exams, a Newsday survey found.

Of the districts surveyed on the math assessments, 44.6% did not take the exams in Nassau County and 60.5% in Suffolk. Not all districts — there are 124 on Long Island — participated in the survey.

"This year's opt-out numbers demonstrate that Long Island continues to be the national epicenter of the pushback against a test-centered education," Jeanette Deutermann, a Bellmore parent and leader of the Long Island Opt Out group, said Friday.

The tests were different on several levels this year, including: They were shorter, and remote learners did not take the tests at home but were not required to come to school for testing. The U.S. Department of Education required New York and other states to conduct the tests, denying the state the waiver it had sought.

The number of students eligible for the math tests is often lower than those for English Language Arts because students enrolled in accelerated math in grades 7 and 8 may participate in high school math Regents Exams instead.

In 2019, 47.9% of students across 95 districts opted out of the math exams, according to a Newsday survey. Students didn't have to take any assessment tests last year because the state was granted a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Educators noted after this year's English Language Arts tests that the results likely cannot be used to make programmatic decisions. Bill Heidenreich, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, said then that, "Logistically, we administered the exam because federal law requires that we do so, but we have assessment results that we really don't know what to do with."

Prior years have drawn large boycotts of the assessments, with some parents and educators saying the tests do not accurately measure student achievement.

In seeking the waiver for 2021, the state said the tests would not be useful to fairly assess an individual or school district’s progress, given the disruptions of the year and the many students studying remotely.

The state shortened the tests — taking place over one day rather than two in each session — and schools faced no consequences or penalties for low participation rates. Federal aid distribution is not tied to test results.

Educators said the test contained only about two dozen questions. Some questions on the tests had been used in prior years, as well as in practice exams, that were familiar to students.

Testing advocates, such as the New York Equity Coalition of civil rights, education, parent, and business groups, said assessment data is "vital to understand what the academic impacts of the pandemic have been."

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