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Parents, reacting to Regents, threaten more Common Core boycotts

Diane Livingston, co-founder of Port Washington Advocates for

Diane Livingston, co-founder of Port Washington Advocates for Public Education, speaks during an open discussion regarding the opt-out movement at the Dolphin Bookshop & Cafe in Port Washington Thursday, March 31, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

Parent leaders of a movement opposed to Common Core testing vowed Tuesday to renew boycotts next spring in response to declarations by state education officials that students will take assessments for six days in April, as in years past.

Parent and teacher groups on Long Island, who have mounted massive anti-testing protests the past two years, had hoped the State Education Department would cut testing back to four days in April. Hopes faded this week, however, when state authorities nixed any reductions — at least for the 2016-17 school year.

Diane Venezia Livingston, a Port Washington mother of three, said an instant response came to mind when she heard of Albany’s decision.

“Opt out 2017 begins,” said Livingston, a founding member of Port Washington Advocates for Public Education, an activist group.

Livingston, like other movement leaders, said she was not entirely swayed Tuesday, when state authorities partly shifted the position they had taken the day before.

Authorities in charge are Betty Rosa, chancellor of the Board of Regents, who set education policy, and MaryEllen Elia, the education commissioner. Elia reports to the Regents and is dealing now with a different board majority than those who hired her last year.

On Monday, Elia announced the education department would administer six days of testing in the spring of both 2017 and 2018, and consider switching to four days of tests in 2019. The state’s usual schedule calls for three days of testing in English and another three days in math, with each daily session lasting up to 90 minutes.

The commissioner added that testing experts had considered shorter tests for this spring and the year after, but had concluded that this would make it impossible to accurately “gauge how our students are progressing.” Rosa joined in that statement.

The announcement drew instant condemnations from many parents and from New York State United Teachers, a 600,000-member statewide union group.

Tuesday, Rosa, with Elia sitting beside her, stated at a board meeting that testing would proceed as planned in the spring, but that the format of the 2018 assessment would be open for dialogue.

“Our commissioner and staff are fully prepared to continue the discussion into the following year,” the chancellor said.

Elia later indicated to a reporter that she agreed.

The state’s testing program, along with teacher job evaluations tied to test scores, has become a volatile political and social issue. Parents and others have protested that the program puts too much pressure on students and teachers alike.

Last spring, approximately 89,000 students in grades 3 through 8 in Nassau and Suffolk counties were pulled out of state tests. More than half of all students eligible for testing participated in boycotts throughout the region — the heaviest concentration of test refusals anywhere in the state or nation.

Jeanette Deutermann of North Bellmore, founder of the regional Long Island Opt Out organization, said she welcomed Rosa’s latest statement, but nonetheless expected large-scale boycotts to resume in April.

Rosa, a former Bronx school administrator, was a longtime critic of the state’s testing program before being chosen chancellor in March.

“I have complete faith in Betty in terms of what she wants to do,” said Deutermann, a mother of two. “But bureaucracy sometimes gets in the way.”

Carl Korn, a spokesman for the teachers union, also said he approved of Rosa’s willingness to reopen discussions. However, Korn added there was “no acceptable rationale” for not reducing April testing to four days.


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