© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ed commissioner disagrees with attempt to punish opt-out schools

New York Now
New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and capitol correspondent Karen DeWitt.

New York state’s education commissioner said she’s fighting a proposal by her predecessor, now the federal education secretary, to punish schools with a high opt-out rate from the standardized tests.

MaryEllen Elia said she and the New York State Board of Regents have made a number of changes in her first year on the job to fix the third- through eighth-grade tests, including signing on with a new testing company that will let teachers write more of the questions, shortening the exams and giving kids more time to complete them.

Elia, in an interview with public radio and television, said she believes in some form of accountability but respects parents’ rights to opt their children out of the tests. She said federal education Secretary John King’s plan to financially sanction schools where more than 5 percent of kids skip the tests is “unacceptable.”

“Parents should make a decision to have their kids take it, but it’s their decision,” said Elia. “Children should not be penalized for that decision.” 

Twenty-two percent of students statewide boycotted the tests this year. A vice president for the teachers union said in an op-ed piece that King’s threats could “blow the lid off” the uneasy calm that’s settled over the testing issue during the past year.

King was New York’s education commissioner until mid-2015. He was a controversial figure who fast-tracked the Common Core standards. Elia said she’s taking a more measured approach.


Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.