Opting out continues to gain momentum in North Fork schools

Continuing a trend seen since New York State started implementing the tests a few years ago, a large percentage of local students refused to take the state-mandated English Language Arts assessment this week, according to numbers provided by school officials.

At the Greenport School District, nearly 65 percent of students who were expected to take state-mandated ELA assessments declined to sit for the exams, which are in progress through Thursday.

Greenport School District:

Grade 3: 48 eligible, 30 refused
Grade 4: 33 eligible, 23 refused
Grade 5: 42 eligible, 19 refused
Grade 6: 51 eligible, 30 refused
Grade 7: 45 eligible, 35 refused
Grade 8: 59 eligible, 44 refused

In Southold, 55 percent of students refused to take the ELA exam.

Southold School District:

Grade 3: 55 eligible, 25 refused
Grade 4: 69 eligible, 25 refused
Grade 5: 59 eligible, 34 refused
Grade 6: 64 eligible, 41 refused
Grade 7: 63 eligible, 37 refused
Grade 8: 51 eligible, 35 refused

Last year, 61 percentage of Greenport students refused to take ELA assessments and nearly 64 percent of Southold’s eligible students skipped the exam.

The number of students refusing to take the exams has continued to grow for the past four years and educators say current test scores don’t provide a clear picture of a school’s ability to educate youth.

David Gamberg, superintendent for both the Greenport and Southold school districts and an outspoken critic of the Common Core testing rules, said he believes the current trend “speaks volumes to the deep seated problems with how education is being driven in New York state.”

“This level of dissatisfaction and concern with what is the driving force behind educational policy —the overuse of standardized testing to rank and sort students and teachers — is unprecedented,” he said. “Assessing students and finding ways to improve educational outcomes can be done in a more sensible manner. Authentic assessment, purposeful measurement of what is happening that is not punitive but rather is instructive would address the concerns of families.”

Mr. Gamberg added he believes there’s also “a hyper focus on testing that is creating an unhealthy climate for all concerned with public education.”

[Related: Did more outspoken leadership play a role in ‘opt out’ results?]

In the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District, 211 out of 506 students — or 42 percent — refused to sit for ELA assessments, Superintendent Anne Smith said.

Mattituck-Cutchogue School District:

Grade 3: 80 eligible, 31 refused
Grade 4: 78 eligible, 27 refused
Grade 5: 85 eligible, 39 refused
Grade 6: 80 eligible, 43 refused
Grade 7: 87 eligible, 40 refused
Grade 8: 96 eligible, 64 refused

Last year, 35 percent of students did not sit in on the ELA tests.

Dr. Smith said the district will continue to support the efforts of Suffolk County Superintendents’ Association and its collaboration with the state Department of Education to work on changing testing, standards and the teacher evaluation process.

“Mattituck-Cutchogue strives to keep our focus on teaching and learning and best practice in our day-to-day work with our teachers and our students,” she said. “Our district is committed to continuous improvement, academic excellence, authentic and meaningful learning opportunities and educating all of our children to be the best they can be as learners and members of society.”

As for the Oysterponds School District, which runs a pre-K through sixth-grade program, 13 out of 38 students opted out, or 34 percent. Seven students refused to take the ELA exam last year.

Oysterponds School District:

Grade 3: 13 eligible, 2 refused
Grade 4: 6 eligible, 5 refused
Grade 5: 9 eligible, 2 refused
Grade 6: 10 eligible, 4 refused

ELA testing runs through Thursday. Math assessments are scheduled for April 13-15.

Check back for more information as it becomes available.

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