Merrick parents testing the limits

‘Opt-out’ movement may cause headaches for districts


First of two parts.

School officials in the Merrick, North Merrick and Bellmore-Merrick Central High School districts say they do not yet fully know how certain parents’ refusal to allow their children to take new standardized tests will affect the students or their schools.

The new exams are based on the Common Core State Standards, which most states adopted in recent years with prompting from the Obama administration. New York, one of the first states in the country to implement Common Core tests, launched new English and math tests for all public and charter school students in grades three to eight last month.

But a number of students –– including 31 in Merrick elementary schools, 25 in North Merrick elementary schools and 53 in the Merrick Avenue and Grand Avenue middle schools –– never took the exams, as part of a protest that their parents are waging against the tests. The parents, part of a nationwide “opt-out” movement that advocates meeting standardized testing with civil disobedience, argue that the exams hurt their children’s learning and well-being.

Tracey Kaminski, a North Merrick parent and an earth science teacher at Lindenhurst High School, raised several problems that she has with the new exams at a recent North Merrick Board of Education meeting, ranging from the five-year, $32 million contract that the state Department of Education awarded NCS Pearson, a subsidiary of the British multinational corporation Pearson PLC, to create English Language Arts and math assessment tests for grades three to eight, to the annual testing of young children in general.

“[My sons] say to me, ‘I hate school. All I do is prep for tests,’” Kaminski said. “I never hated school. And I went to Camp Ave … Never, never did I say [that]. Ever. And none of my friends ever said they hated school. Both of my kids have said that to me. And they’re not bad students; they just hate all of this testing.”

Kaminski is one of many thousands of parents and educational professionals around the state and country who have raised similar objections to Common Core standardized testing.

The opt-out movement

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