A handful of parents in Merrick and North Merrick told school administrators that they would refuse to allow their children to sit for new standardized state exams, which began in elementary schools around the state this week. The parents, who believe that the standardized exams lack pedagogical merit and are harmful to students, say they would like to see a grass-roots civil-disobedience movement involving other parents taking the same action that would force the state to cancel the exams.
In all, 50 students did not take the exams on Tuesday, the first day they were administered, according to officials in both districts. Parents who do not permit their children to take the tests are committing acts of civil disobedience, given that the New York State Education Department issued a written warning this year to school districts stating that the tests are compulsory, and that there is no provision in the law allowing children to “opt out” of the exams.
“The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that state tests be administered in English language arts and mathematics in grades 3-8, and in science at least once during grades 3-5 and 6-9,” wrote Steven Katz, director of the Education Department’s Office of Standards, Assessment and Reporting. “… [T]he department requires that all students in public and charter schools in grades 3-8 must take all state assessments administered for their grade level.”
The North Merrick and Merrick School Districts, which comprise Camp Avenue, Fayette, Old Mill Road, Birch, Chatterton and Levy-Lakeside schools, sent letters to parents stating that participation in the state tests is required. The letters quoted Katz’s memo.