An education advocacy group says that more than 175,000 New York students — far more than last year — opted out of Common Core English Language Arts exams given this week, and the number is expected to climb, highlighting a growing movement among parents around the country to protest standardized tests they think are unfair to students and teachers.
New York State Allies for Public Education is counting opt-out students district by district, and in early afternoon Saturday, it had counted 177,249 with 64 percent of the state’s school systems reporting. Math tests are being given next week. Last year about 60,000-70,000 students — or less than 5 percent of the total — students opted out of Common Core math and ELA tests in the state; this year, so far, the group estimates that more than 14 percent refused the first Common Core test.
The impact of the opt-out movement has been significant, sparking a national debate on the value of the tests and forcing administrators and policymakers to address it. Some state legislatures have taken up bills to set policy on what to do about students who refuse the state-mandated tests.
In some New York schools, opt-out rates have topped 80 percent and superintendents are reporting double-digit rates across districts. But New York is not the only place where districts are seeing huge opt-out rates; in Montclair, N.J., for example, about 40 percent of students opted out the PARCC Common Core test given a few weeks ago. Preliminary numbers in New Jersey showed that 15 percent of high school juniors opted out of the tests though the percentage was lower among younger students.
The opt-out movement has been growing around the country as fatigue with high-stakes standardized tests and their impact on public education escalates. Many parents, teachers, principals and even superintendents are expressing concern about the quality and validity of the assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards or similar standards, and the use of the scores to evaluate educators through assessment methods that experts have warned against using for such purposes.
New York is giving students Common Core-aligned tests designed for the state by Pearson, the largest education company in the world. New Jersey is using the Common Core-aligned test designed by one of two multi-state consortia created, with some $360 million in federal funds — to design new assessments.
Educators are also calling attention to other problems with questions on New York’s Pearson-created Common Core tests — some of which are being posted on social media despite efforts by the company, the world’s largest education firm, to monitor students’ posts on social media regarding the exams. Some of the questions, for example, are reported to be written at grade levels far above the grades in which they are being given, and others are said to be confusing. One teacher has written to the acting commissioner of education about at least one passage taken from a work by a Christian publisher.
A Pearson spokesman declined to talk about issues with the test.
New York State Allies for Public Education is a coalition of dozens of groups in the state advocating for public education and opposing high-stakes testing.