‘Opt-outs’ in Merricks increase during math exams


Sometime between when third- to eighth-grade students took state English Language Arts tests at the beginning of April and when they took state math tests four weeks later, some Merrick and North Merrick parents decided that enough was enough.

The parents joined a relatively small but growing number of parents throughout the community who informed their children’s teachers and school administrators that they would not permit their children to take the state assessments.

The English tests took place April 1 to 3 and the math tests April 30 to May 2. According to the state Department of Education, the tests are based on the Common Core Learning Standards — broad changes to school curricula that the Obama administration has pushed and most states have adopted in recent years.

Though the tests are mandatory, a growing number of Long Island parents are choosing to have their children “opt-out” from taking them by sending refusal letters to teachers and school administrators. The parents argue that the tests represent bad educational policy and are detrimental to their children’s psychological, emotional and developmental wellbeing.

According to Newsday, more than 10,000 students across Long Island did not take the math tests, at their parents’ direction. Newsday said this number does not include “opt-outs” in 59 Long Island school districts that did not answer the newspaper’s survey.

Superintendent Dr. Dominick Palma said that 130 students in the Merrick School District sat out the math tests. In North Merrick, Superintendent David Feller reported, 75 sat out. And Michelle Gagnon, a Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District spokeswoman, said that 180 did so at Merrick Avenue Middle School. During this year’s English tests, those numbers were 90, 65 and 91, respectively.

Merrick parent Rose Sodano said her son, a Levy-Lakeside School sixth-grader, was among those who took neither the English nor math assessments this year.

“My … son is a fully informed little political dynamo who understands exactly why he isn’t taking the tests,” Sodano wrote in an email. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I told him the only reason he is allowed to discuss it is to inform others, never to brag. He has done a great job educating his peers and encouraging them to talk to their parents.”

In February, the state Board of Regents, which oversees the Department of Education, agreed to make certain changes, including modifying testing for students with disabilities and English language learners and delaying requirements that students who do poorly on the tests work with academic intervention services.