50 Merrick, N. Merrick students opt out of tests

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The new exams are based on “common core” standards, which New York and most other states adopted in recent years, with prompting by the Obama administration. New York is one of the first states in the country to implement common core tests, according to The New York Times. In fact, the pace of New York’s assessment reform has outstripped the pace of curriculum reform, as the new exams will — by the state Education Department’s own admission — test material not necessarily taught in classrooms. Merrick and North Merrick school administrators have cautioned parents in recent months that they, like school administrators across the state, expect test scores to go down this year.

Both districts began administering English tests in grades three to six this week, and they will administer math tests in the same grades next week.

Despite the state and school districts’ dictums that the tests are mandatory, some parents in Merrick and North Merrick have concluded that they represent bad educational policy and are detrimental to their children’s psychological, emotional and developmental well being.

“I believe, as a parent, I have the right to refuse for my child to take the tests,” said Tiffany Joosten, the mother of one child in the North Merrick School District, at a recent meeting of the North Merrick Board of Education. “I request that she be given alternate educational opportunities during exam times, such as reading in the library … I am also requesting that you honor my parental rights and not make my child refuse the test herself.”

Joosten, who said she is a third-grade teacher, called the state tests “grossly excessive, poorly designed [and] punitive to students and teachers in our schools.”

“The rapid pace and constantly changing nature of testing and curriculum mandates from the state are strangling our students, our teachers and our schools,” she said. “How can our children exit the school system with creativity, curiosity and a love of learning anymore?”

She blamed what she called “high-stakes testing” for causing students stress and anxiety, limiting creative and innovative teaching, and wasting funds that could be better allocated to programming.

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