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Letter: Why We Are Opting-Out

A few weeks from now, New York’s public school children in grades 3-8 will spend six days taking the poorly designed, expensive New York State Assessments. The overreliance on these tests has pushed school districts to abandon successful curriculum models and confine themselves instead to the limited, unproven and expensive Common Core standards.  

“Prepping” for these dreary, mind-numbing examinations greatly reduces the time our kids can spend on appropriate, meaningful educational pursuits. It inhibits excellent teachers from bringing their inspiration and ingenuity into the classroom. The tests penalize children for their creativity and original thinking, and they punish gifted children and those with special needs even more severely. The process also channels tens of millions of our tax dollars out of the classrooms and into the coffers of  rapacious testing corporations, who view our children as nothing more than a footnote on their bottom line. These companies also eagerly look forward to gaining access to our children’s confidential personal information.

Faced with this threat to our children’s education, a large and growing number of parents (ourselves included) are taking the very logical step of opting our children out of the New York State tests.  

When asked why we would refuse the tests, we ask instead, Why would we let our kids take them? We really can’t think of a reason.

These assessments do not benefit our children, and they serve no educational purpose. Unlike the exams given by teachers as an aid to instruction, the Common Core tests are secret. Teachers cannot use them to improve learning, because they aren’t allowed to see them. Ever. Want to know which questions your child answered incorrectly? Sorry, you’re not allowed access to that information. Would you like to see if the test itself contains errors? Oh, you definitely can’t do that. Why all the secrecy? Possibly because every version of the tests has been riddled with errors, developmentally inappropriate material and ambiguous questions. Months of prepping and a week of testing are reduced to a single-digit score, and we’re supposed to assume it tells us anything of value? All available evidence points to the contrary.

The tests are also needlessly stressful, punitive, and take away months of vital classroom instruction time. College students on their way to medical school take the MCAT. It lasts around 4½ hours. The Common Core exams are given to our kids for six days, one to two hours per day or more. And that is every year, starting in third grade. If 4½ hours of testing is enough to get you into medical school, it is ridiculous to assume that double or triple that amount, every year, is necessary for a child in grade school. No other high-achieving nation tests their children in this relentless, harmful way.

Educational leaders throughout New York are speaking out forcefully that these tests are harmful to our children and detrimental to their education. Just this past week, nearly 100 of Long Island’s school superintendents appealed directly to Governor Cuomo, urging him to support a halt to the testing process. School Boards in Port Jefferson, Great Neck, Herricks, Huntington, Syosset, Rockville Centre and many other districts have made public statements and passed resolutions opposing the misguided, harmful state assessment process. Additionally, several thousand principals throughout the state have signed an open anti-testing letter to the Board of Regents. It is becoming difficult to find anybody (other than the people being paid to say so) who will tell you that these tests are actually useful for anything. Enough already.

There is no requirement that your children take these tests. Opting them out is very straightforward. You just visit the website of the NY State Allies for Public Education and download an opt-out form. Fill in your information and send it to your child’s principal. Specific opt-out protocols vary from district to district, so discuss it with your principal or superintendent. In many districts, children will read quietly or do other schoolwork while the tests are being given.

So the real question becomes, why would you let your kids sit through these tests? The only reason we can think of is, “because other people are doing it.” As we teach our children, that isn’t a good reason to do anything. Really, it isn’t. It certainly isn’t a good reason to let our kids take these useless, absurd Common Core tests. We have a better idea. If we want to know how our children are doing in school, we will ask their teachers.

Mitchell Rubinstein

Susan Rubinstein

 

News

On Saturday, July 26, Floral Park and Hance Family Foundation supporters from more than 23 states, including from Michigan, Louisiana, and Arizona, from three countries joined in the remembrance of Emma, Alyson, and Katie Hance in the foundation’s annual Day of Remembrance. Green ribbons and balloons were tied generously around trees, lampposts, railing and garden stakes, celebrating the lives of the sisters, gone too soon.

The foundation’s Facebook page was loaded with photos and prayers and messages from around the globe, from those who participated in some way, remembering the sisters who died in a car accident on July 26, 2009, at ages 8, 7, and 5.

Bright blue eyes, a full head of hair, beautiful smile, and full of energy. At 5 years old, Ethan Demmers is possibly at the healthiest he will be in his life. Ethan was recently diagnosed with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy (DMD). Typically, people with this disease live only into their 20s. Over the next few years, the disease will slowly attack every muscle in Ethan’s body, eventually causing him to permanently be in a wheelchair. Ethan’s parents are not ready to give up their hope for a cure. They are fully committed to helping find a cure for this deadly illness, not just for their own son, but for all others suffering as well.

Ethan’s father, Dustin Demmers, is an English teacher at Floral Park Memorial High School. To the student body, Demmers can be described as funny, happy, wacky, wild, crazy, and unique among other adjectives. Demmers can be found smiling through the halls, making jokes over the loudspeakers, or making his class into the ideal environment for learning.


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