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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 Roslyn, 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

Roslyn

 

News

If you missed the 6th annual champagne party at Coe Hall in Planting Fields, put it on your calendar for next year, because this is the party of the summer. A total of 175 guests attended, and many of them were in costume, a new addition to the popular champagne party. The always ebullient Henry Joyce, executive director of Planting Fields Foundation, greeted his guests with his date Daphne, a 3-month-old long haired Dachshund, who is a companion for his Great Dane, Lucy.

“This is a splendid event to celebrate Coe Hall and Planting Fields; everything looks so wonderful in the summer,” said Joyce. “The gardens are glorious and we have a new exhibition to celebrate and it’s just so lovely to be out here in these gardens.”

An expert’s tips on bringing the

best of your garden into your home

Right now, Oyster Bay is in bloom. From the well-tended gardens of Planting Fields to unmowed patches near the Shu Swamp preserve, flowers are not just beautify our community, they also are calling out to us to bring them inside our homes to add color and fragrance. You don’t hear them? Trust me, the flowers in your garden are even calling you by name.

But don’t just stuff a bouquet in a vase. Make them look as good and last as long as possible. To find out how to do that, as well as how to improve your backyard flora, I asked Scott Lucas, the greenhouse supervisor of Old Westbury Gardens for some advice. He invited to join him in his cutting garden.


Sports

Kevin Mercier, 39, of Oyster Bay, led a large contingent of local runners in the Lynne, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint 5 Kilometer Run, held on the grounds of Nassau County’s Sands Point Preserve on Saturday morning, Aug. 9. Mercier was the 18th finisher overall and third in the 35-39 age group with a time of  21 minutes, 7 seconds.

Other local runners winning awards at the Sands Point Preserve were Nicholas Cuddy of Oyster Bay, who earned first place honors in the Clydesdale Weight Division with a time of 25:53, Joanne Gallo of Oyster Bay, who  took home the first place award in the women’s 65-69 age group with a time of 28:11, and Anja Hermann of Oyster Bay, third place woman in the 20-24 age group, who finished in 28:47.

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay will once again be the site of the Long Island’s premiere multisport event – the 27th annual Runner’s Edge - Town of Oyster Bay Triathlon on Saturday, Aug. 23, and the Runner’s Edge – Town of Oyster Bay Junior Triathlon for youngsters ages 8-13 on Sunday, Aug. 24.

The Saturday main event is a “sprint” triathlon, which consists of a half-mile swim in Oyster Bay harbor, a one loop 15 kilometer bike ride over hill and dale through beautiful Oyster Bay, Oyster Bay Cove and Laurel Hollow, and a 5 kilometer run through Mill Neck and Brookville, “up” to Planting Fields Arboretum and “down”to the finish at back at  Roosevelt  Park.


Calendar

Bayville Car Show

Friday, Aug. 22

Junior Triathlon

Sunday, Aug. 24

Historic Church Service And Tour

Sunday, Aug. 24



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com