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Survey: Common Core opt-outs drop in NY, remain high on LI

A fifth-grader at Ulysses Byas Elementary School in

A fifth-grader at Ulysses Byas Elementary School in the Roosevelt school district sits for the state Common Core math test on May 4, 2017. Credit: Barry Sloan

Numbers of students boycotting the state’s Common Core tests dropped in the majority of school districts statewide this year, though the figures remained especially high on Long Island, an advocacy group said Wednesday.

High Achievement New York, a Manhattan-based group that supports state tests, reported that 511 districts across the state — 76 percent of those counted — experienced reductions in opt-out rates. The comparable number on the Island was 76 districts, or 64 percent of those counted.

High Achievement’s calculations covered last spring’s test administrations in English Language Arts and mathematics for grades three through eight statewide.

A week ago, state education officials in Albany who sponsor the tests announced with some satisfaction that the overall portion of students boycotting assessments fell from 21 percent in 2016 to 19 percent this year.

High Achievement, however, highlighted the importance of the high proportion of individual districts that saw increases in student test participation from that in 2016.

“The trend from this year’s New York State school district opt-out data is clear: more parents and students are saying, ‘yes to the test’ and the opt-out effort has lost steam across New York,” said Stephen Sigmund, the organization’s executive director, in a prepared statement.

High Achievement is a statewide umbrella group that includes the New York State Business Council and local chambers of commerce, along with some civic groups.

An analyst for High Achievement acknowledged that the group’s counts were not exact, in part because the Education Department presented 2017 figures in a slightly different form than in 2016. However, High Achievement’s numbers for districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties came close to figures compiled by Newsday when the tests were given in the spring.

Parent and teacher groups who oppose what they consider overtesting of children responded that the boycott movement remains strong and influential statewide. High Achievement, on the other hand, described the movement as “Long Island-Centric” because of the region’s high concentration of opt-outs — the largest seen in the nation.

Of 50 districts statewide with the highest opt-out rates, 40 are located on the Island, the organization said. It listed the Comsewogue district in Port Jefferson Station as second-highest in the state, with an average refusal rate of 83.3 percent on both the ELA and math tests, Rocky Point as third with 78.3 percent and Greenport fourth at 76.4 percent.

The only district listed with a higher rate was Dolgeville, which is located upstate near Utica, with an average refusal rate of 84.9 percent.

Boycott organizers said Wednesday that more than nine districts out of every 10 statewide continue to fall short of a federal requirement that at least 95 percent of students be tested annually. They said this guaranteed that their movement would continue to exert pressure on the state to ease testing requirements.

“The only way to change a system is to disrupt it,” said Jeanette Deutermann, a North Bellmore parent of two and founder of the Long Island Opt Out network.

Lisa Rudley, a Westchester mother of three and a statewide boycott leader, also emphasized the movement’s continued statewide strength.

“It’s an enormous number of students — I’d say around 225,000,” Rudley said.

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