BALLSTON SPA–The NYS Common Core testing dates are quickly approaching and as they do, concerns continue to increase for not only test takers, but also for those who opt-out of taking the standardized tests and may be asked to “sit and stare”.
According to testing policies associated with the rollout of Common Core, when standardized state tests are given to schoolchildren this spring, some school districts are advising teachers to make those students sit and stare at their desks, during potentially hours of testing . Parents locally and state-wide are protesting the policy as unfair to those children opted out and disruptive to the test-takers around them.
Ballston Spa Central School District, like many other districts across the state, has been struggling with the issue of where and what to do with those students refusing to take the assessments. The New York State Education Department expects every child in public schools to take the tests which are considered to be an assessment tool on where the student stands academically, more specifically in conjunction with Common Core.
It is every parent’s right to have their child “opt out” of the testing. When presented with the question late last year on what to do with “opt outs”, Superintendent Joseph Dragone said at that time there were no procedures in place for those students, eluding to the possibility of what has been named the “Sit and Stare “ policy.
Dragone did not officially say he was opting for this, but rather said he was awaiting the state to give district guidelines as to what to do with these students. Dragone also made the point early last week that the Ballston Spa School District had only five students refuse to take the tests last year, not calling for any type of formal procedure for the “opt out” students.
“Last year there were five test refusals reported to my office. The “sit and stare” has come from the fact that there is little guidance from SED about options on how to handle this. Bottom line is that these kids will be accommodated”, said Dragone.
The issue was addressed at last week’s Board of Education meeting. Dragone told parents, faculty, and Board members that they now have a procedure in place that the district feels comfortable with. Dragone said if you are intending on having your child refuse to take the New York State assessment, the procedure will be to contact your child’s building principal and indicate that you intend to have your child refuse the assessment.
He explains in a statement on the school district website that there is strict protocol that includes having to place the test in front of every student, at that point they can refuse to take the test and will be able to move to another location where they will be allowed to read.
District parents like Renee Merten are what sparked Dragone to look further into the issue. Merten called the possibility of the “sit and stare “policy unfair and even cruel and had asked the district to come up with an alternative.
“I had ask the board politely in October to provide a safe place for our children and allow them to read a book, for kids that refuse the tests,” said Merten.
Merten said she and other parents who share her views are only looking out for the best interest of not only their children but of the entire district, including faculty and staff.
“We only want what is best for our children and teachers,” said Merten.
Dragone addressed these concerns and thanked district parents in a statement:
“I appreciate your patience as the District has worked to create procedures to accommodate students who refuse to take the New York State assessments. Although on the surface this might seem like a simple task, test administration includes highly regulated protocols, and it is necessary that the District act in good faith based on guidance from the State Education Department so we are in compliance with state and federal regulations. As an educator and as a father, I have the utmost respect for parents’ rights to make decisions that they feel are in the best interest of their child,” said Dragone.
Meanwhile, NYSUT, has maintained their stance on “sit and stare” policies as “cruel and counterproductive”. NYSUT Spokesperson for the Latham office Carl Korn, said they are waiting on the State Education Department to give clear and concise guidelines so that districts do not find themselves in a situation similar to BSCSD.
“We condemn the policy of sit and stare, as we feel it is a disservice and distraction to those students both taking and not taking the test, we believe this is a real opportunity for the state to step up and provide schools with a policy that protects those refusing to take the test,” said Korn.
Early in February, leaders of NYSUT called for a delay in using the new test scores in evaluating teacher performance.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a panel to look into the rollout of the Common Core, which he has publicly declared as flawed.
Let’s talk! Are you a parent of a child opting-out of the tests or do you think that the issue of Common Core is getting over-blown? Login and post your comments below.