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Poll finds half of New Yorkers agree with test opt out movement

Karen DeWitt
WRVO News (file photo)

A new Siena College poll finds that half of New Yorkers support a growing movement for parents to opt their children out of state standardized tests. As many as 20 percent boycotted the third through eighth grade math and English exams given earlier in April.

Siena’s Steve Greenberg says support is greater upstate and on Long Island, than in New York City. The city’s teacher’s union, the United Federation of Teachers, remained neutral in the boycott, while the dominant union in the rest of the state, New York State United Teachers, offered support to those who wanted to skip the tests.

“I absolutely think that the impact of the teacher’s union here is part of what we’re seeing,” said Greenberg. “I don’t know if it’s all of what we’re seeing.”

The poll also finds that two-thirds of voters don’t want teacher performance reviews to rely too heavily on the standardized test results. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Education Department are pressing a new teacher evaluation system that depends more on the controversial exams.  

Despite Cuomo’s on-going battle with the teacher’s unions, the governor’s approval ratings are holding steady at 56 percent.   

The poll also finds voters think that the latest anti-corruption measures passed by Cuomo and the legislature are ineffective, but they are happy that the governor and lawmakers did not hold up the state budget just to get ethics reform.

Cuomo had called for a number of anti-corruption measures to be tied to the state budget, but, in the end achieved only extra disclosure of lawmaker’s outside income. While the governor said at the time that it was among the most extensive reforms in the country, but a Siena College poll finds voters aren’t impressed, says Siena’s Steve Greenberg.    

“Sixty-eight percent of voters agree with critics of the governor that the new law has too many loopholes,” Greenberg said. “Only 20 percent agree with the governor that these are the strongest ethics laws in the nation.”  

Greenberg says three-quarters of voters would have liked to see a ban on the use of campaign funds for legal fees when lawmakers are investigated for corruption.  Most also say they are glad, that in the end, the state budget was not made late over the ethics issue.

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.