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Opt-out may get an answer in Albany

Max Klingensmith
A new bill in the New York legislature addresses some concerns of the anti-state test "opt out" movement.

A large number of New York’s students refused to participate in state tests this year. Now, their cries may have been heard in Albany.

Advocates estimate the so-called “opt-out” movement had almost 200,000 students, and all those test booklets sat empty for a lot of different reasons. Some opt-outers dislike New York’s new teacher evaluation system that ties ratings more closely to student test scores. Others say kids just take too many tests these days.

A new bill in the state legislature takes on some of those reasons. It would push back the deadline for schools to change teacher evaluation systems. It would make sure that when evaluations use test scores, factors like student poverty and disabilities are also taken into account.

Mary McGuire, who teaches political science at SUNY Cortland, says that should calm some of the opt-out uproar.

“I think that a lot of the energy behind the opt-out movement is coming from teachers, particularly teachers’ unions who think that evaluation system is unfair,” she says.

The bill would also require the state to release test results sooner, so schools can use them to guide teaching. Opt-outers have complained about that, too. But McGuire says the bill doesn’t get to all of their worries.

“It certainly does absolutely nothing about the number of tests that students take,” she says.

The bill has bipartisan sponsors, which McGuire says is a good sign it will get some serious consideration. But with just six weeks left in the legislative session, it’s uncertain if opting out made a difference this time around.

Solvejg Wastvedt grew up in western Pennsylvania and graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Over the summer, she served in Los Angeles as an intern on NPR's National Desk. Plus, before coming to Upstate New York, Solvejg worked at the Minneapolis community radio station KFAI. When she isn't reporting the news, Solvejg enjoys running and exploring hiking trails.