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Opt-out parents plan to have kids sit tests out again, despite changes

Ellen Abbott

Standardized test season is approaching for students across New York state. State Education Department officials are hoping there won’t be a repeat of last year, when 20 percent of students statewide boycotted tests given to third to eighth graders. But the opt-out movement is still alive.

Jamie McNair of Opt Out CNY admits the state has made some changes in the standardized testing regimen in the wake of widespread parental concern over the tests in recent years. But he’s not terribly impressed.

“Still excessively long,” McNair said about the tests. “And still based on developmentally inappropriate standards."

McNair, a parent of two school-aged children in New Hartford, says the content and pacing of classroom activities is still dictated by the state testing schedule. The tests have once again been written by controversial testing giant Pearson, with minimal teacher input, though this is the last year Pearson will author the tests. And Opt Out CNY says while there has been a moratorium on using test results for hiring and firing teachers, educators will still receive a general rating from New York state based on the test score results.  

McNair says it all adds up to the continuation of what he calls the “test and punish” system.

"I think most parents see that too, in homework assignments that come home and what they see what their kids are doing in class every day.”

Testing season begins April 5, when the English Language Arts exams are administered. McNair says parents who want to express continued disappointment in the state testing regimen should send an opt-out letter to schools as soon as possible, so those schools can plan for test day.

“They need to continue to send that message and send that refusal letter to their building principal. Until things change, parents need to opt out.”

McNair says parents can download a refusal letter at Opt Out CNY’s website.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.