Surge in North Fork students ‘opting out’ of state assessments

On the first day of this school year’s state assessments, most North Fork school districts experienced a sharp increase in the number of students refusing to take the exams.

David Gamberg, superintendent of both Greenport and Southold school districts, said 61 percent of students in Greenport and 59 percent of students in Southold refused to take the English Language Arts exams Tuesday.

The exams last three days, and students in grades 3-8 will be tested for another three days next week in math.

In Greenport, 165 students out 270 students eligible to take the exam refused, Mr. Gamberg said, adding Southold had 214 students decline to take the assessments out of 366 students.

“We should not be surprised by this,” Mr. Gamberg said. “I support quality assessments when it is meaningful to students and teachers.”

Last year, over the course of three days of ELA testing in Greenport, 35 of 269 students refused to sit for the exams, or 13 percent of students.

As for Southold, 101 of 361 eligible students, or 28 percent, declined to take the assessments.

Mattituck-Cutchogue School District superintendent Anne Smith said 195 students, or nearly 35 percent, out of 549 students in grades 3-8 refused to take the exam.

Last year, 43 students out of 592 students declined to take those exams.

“I believe the increase in refusals is a direct result of the coupling of state assessment data with teacher and principal evaluation,” Dr. Smith said. “The confidence in the assessment system is a major issue for parents. The strong ‘opt out’ or refusal movement is a direct result of the public’s mistrust and lack of confidence in the manner in which the education reform agenda has been developed and implemented.”

The Oysterponds Elementary School District, which runs a pre-K through sixth-grade program in Orient, had seven students out of the 38 students in grades 3-6 decline to take the assessments, superintendent Richard Malone said.

This is the first year the district experienced students declining to take the exams. Last year, none of its students refused.

New Suffolk Elementary School District officials didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment for this story.

ELA assessments continue Wednesday and Thursday.

For the past few years, parents and educators statewide have protested what’s been referred to as New York’s public education system’s high-stakes testing model tied to the controversial Common Core State Standards through a movement known as “opt out.”

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