Students throughout Elmont and Franklin Square who took the state English and mathematics test last spring scored higher than the state average, according to data from the New York State Education Department.
In Elmont, an average of 57 percent of students who took the English Language Arts exam last spring received a proficient score, and 62 percent received a proficient score in Franklin Square. An average of 54 percent of middle schoolers in the Sewanhaka Central High School District, meanwhile, received a proficient score, but only 45 percent of students on average throughout the state received one.
The districts saw similar results when it came to the state mathematics exam. In Elmont, an average of 61 percent of students who took the test received a proficient grade, and in Franklin Square, 66 percent of students received a proficient score. At Sewanhaka, 47 percent of students were proficient, which was the same as the state average.
But these results are difficult to analyze, according to Franklin Square Superintendent Jared Bloom, because many students continue to refuse to take the tests.
The so-called Opt Out Movement began in 2013 in response to the state’s Common Core standards, which parents argued were too rigorous for the grades tested and were designed without teacher input. “You have a state assessment where the teachers have to guess what’s on it,” said Jeanette Deutermann, the founder of the Long Island Opt Out group. She further argued that the curriculum has been designed for the tests, which, she said, cannot properly determine whether a student is proficient in a certain subject.
“This has perverted the entire idea of what a test should be,” Deutermann said.
She suggested that state education officials should re-examine how they test students, and added that she would prefer the state institute performance-based testing to “see if [the students] can understand more of the soft skills.” Until that happens, and every district in the state allows parents to opt-out their children, Deutermann said, the movement will continue.
In Franklin Square last year, 46 percent of eligible students refused to take the ELA test and 49 percent refused to take the math exam. At Sewanhaka nearly 65 percent refused to take the English test and 59.5 percent refused to take the math test.
Elmont declined to provide the Herald with its opt out rates.
As a result of the movement, Bloom said, he mainly uses the test results to examine a student’s individual needs, saying, “I think that’s the best way to use the assessments at this point.”
He added that the district also uses Star Assessments three times a year to monitor a student’s mastery of a subject and identify what a student still has to learn. The teachers in the district do not teach for the exam, he said, and instead teach the students the skills they would need for the test.
“We teach kids authentically,” Bloom explained.
Al Harper, the superintendent of the Elmont school district, also said the district strives to “teach the whole child, [and] not just teach to the test.” To that end, he said, teachers in the district focus on social-emotional learning and 21st century skills.
And at Sewanhaka, Superintendent James Grossane said the district uses “many assessment tools … to gauge student proficiency.”
“The teachers throughout Sewanhaka Central High School District work hard to prepare our students not just for tests, but for college and careers beyond high school,” he said in an emailed statement to the Herald. “As such, we are constantly raising the bar in our curriculum, as well as in our professional development.”