South Fork Parents Are Choosing To Opt Children Out Of State Exams This Week

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While school districts throughout New York are administering the state English language arts exam this week to students in third through eighth grades, some parents are choosing to opt out of their children taking the test, a movement that has spread rapidly on the South Fork.

The decision by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and his administration to weigh the test results heavily in teachers’ evaluations has struck an angry chord with educators, parents and some school administrators who say they do not believe that test scores are a good measurement of a teacher’s effectiveness.

The tests are the second round of exams under the Common Core curriculum, which was first implemented in the state for the 2013-14 school year.

Many South Fork schools reported opt-outs for the ELA test that began Tuesday, including as many as 48 percent in the Southampton School District, 42 percent in Westhampton Beach, 28 percent in Sag Harbor, and 26 percent of students in Hampton Bays. Twenty-two percent of students refused at the Bridgehampton School, and 15 percent opted out in Tuckahoe.

Just two students refused at the Amagansett School, although that is an increase from last year’s count of zero, Superintendent Eleanor Tritt said.

At the Montauk School, Superintendent and Principal Jack Perna said that roughly 17 percent of students refused to take the test on Tuesday, and that he expected that number to only increase over the course of the exam’s three days. Mr. Perna added, though, that he understands parents’ and teachers’ frustrations, as he doesn’t believe the test is well-written enough for students to comprehend it well enough to be fairly evaluated.

“People aren’t happy with the Common Core. So this is just a last resort with the parents. We have tried, and tried, and tried, but nobody’s listening,” he said, referring to statewide efforts to get the New York School Boards Association to make changes to the curriculum and assessments.

Some other district officials, however, did not view opting out as the right move. Ms. Tritt said she thinks the exams provide a lesson for students in following rules and then taking other steps to articulate their viewpoints.

Sag Harbor Superintendent Katy Graves said she is in favor of the Common Core curriculum, although she is not happy with Mr. Cuomo’s attempts to reduce local control in evaluating teachers. Ms. Graves added that the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor played a big role in getting parents to sign refusal forms for their children for that very reason. The Southampton Teachers Association also played a big role in getting students there to refuse. “Our teachers association is very concerned,” Ms. Graves said. “But I really, really believe in the curriculum. It’s been very difficult to implement, but Sag Harbor Schools has been doing very, very well.”

Staff writers Erin McKinley and Kyle Campbell contributed reporting.

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