Merrick parents testing the limits

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The Merrick, North Merrick and Bellmore-Merrick Central High School districts permitted students whose parents did not want their children to take the state tests to go to a different room and read quietly while the exams were under way. The districts did so even though there is no federal or state statute allowing parents to opt their children out of state-mandated tests, according to a memorandum that Steven Katz, director of the state Education Department’s Office of Standards, Assessment and Reporting, sent to school districts earlier this year.

Feller and Merrick Superintendent Dr. Dominick Palma said that their districts followed the law without putting young children in compromising or confrontational situations.

The Merrick and North Merrick elementary districts and the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District reported students who sat out the tests to the Education Department. The students will not receive scores of zero, and they will not be figured into test score statistics.

If, however, a student completed a day’s session of a state ELA or math test and then refused the test on other days, he or she student would receive a grade for the entire test, according to Palma. “Likely they would have a very low score,” he said. “And that would get reported to the state and factor into all of our scores.”

Though students who refused the tests in their entirety did not receive grades, their non-participation could hurt schools down the road, school officials cautioned.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires at least 95 percent student participation in standardized tests from schools — taken both as a whole and across several subcategories, from grade levels to racial and ethnic groups. The law considers schools that are below this threshold to have failed to meet “Adequate Yearly Progress.”

“What’s unknown is, will the state require anything, some corrective action, for those schools that fell below 95 percent?” Palm


Next week: What the opt-out movement might mean for gifted, honors and academic-intervention services.

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