The cafeteria at an elementary school in West Seneca was as quiet as a library Tuesday morning as dozens of children filled the benches. They read books and worked on school assignments.
What they weren’t doing was taking the first day of state standardized tests.
The children were among more than 2,000 third- through eighth-graders at West Seneca Central School District campuses – 70 percent of eligible students – who opted out of the hotly debated tests, which were administered for the third year in alignment with the Common Core learning standards.
They weren’t alone.
In the Lake Shore School District, 58 percent of kids opted out.
In North Tonawanda, inside sources said about 56 percent of students didn’t take the test.
At Lackawanna, just shy of 50 percent. Springville-Griffith had 42 percent, with three quarters of fifth-graders at one elementary school opting out.
In Kenmore-Tonawanda, where the School Board had seriously considered opting the entire district out, 37 percent refused.
Last year, by contrast, only about 5½ percent of Western New York students refused to take the tests, according to one survey.
From the Democrat and Chronicle:
There were thousands of empty seats across Monroe County on Tuesday as students refused to take the New York English Language Arts exam, the first of six days of required testing.
The New York State Education Department has repeatedly warned of consequences for districts that have more than 5 percent of their students opt out; it has now become clear that schools across the state will sail past that threshold. Final numbers were not available from most districts, but parents and teachers reported large opt-out numbers at many schools for students in grades 3-8.
The Rochester School District did not release official numbers, but the Rochester Teachers Association reported that about 80 percent of students at World of Inquiry School 58 refused the test. Fairport had 67 percent of its students opt out, according to Interim Superintendent Bill Cala.
About 45 percent of eligible students refused in Webster and about 43 percent in Irondequoit, according to the districts. Pittsford is at about 25 percent and Greece is at about 15 percent.
Thousands of Long Island elementary and middle school students -- in record numbers in some districts -- refused to take the state's English Language Arts exam Tuesday, the first of three days the test is being given in public schools statewide.
About 16,000 students in grades 3 through 8, in 21 school districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties, opted out of the test, according to responses...
The number of students refusing to take the state tests in New York is much higher than anticipated:
School leaders across New York for weeks have been anticipating a large number of opt-outs by students, said Bob Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.
“But I think the numbers exceeded expectations in many districts,” Lowry said after the first day of English Language Arts tests.
The Daily News estimates the number of opt outs around the state might be as high as 300,000 students - nearly a third of all students who were expected to take the state Common Core exams.
The response from the Cuomo administration?
The Cuomo administration had no comment Tuesday morning on the high refusal rates seen in some Western New York school districts.
Corporate education reformers are panicking:
ALBANY—High Achievement New York, a pro-Common Core coalition that includes business groups, will launch a six-figure radio and digital advertising campaign on Wednesday encouraging parents to “opt in” their children to state exams.
The campaign aims to combat the growing movement of children refusing state tests—tens of thousands of parents are believed to have boycotted the tests that began yesterday—fueled by parent activists and, more recently, teachers’ unions.
The radio spots, which are in English and Spanish and feature New York Urban League president Arva Rice, as well as a public school teacher and two parents, will run in New York City and its suburbs. The digital advertisements will run statewide.
And what's in those ads?
The usual corporate education reform talking points about testing:
“If your son or daughter is in the third through eighth grade, I want you to know this month’s state assessments are crucial for their future,” teacher Pat Sprinkle says in one of the ads. “Almost two-thirds of our students graduate from high school without being ready for college or a career. These tests are designed to fix that—they’re a check-up to make sure all our kids are getting the problem-solving and critical thinking skills needed to succeed.”
Corporate reformers also held a "roundtable" in Albany to discuss a poll they conducted in which they claim the public is overwhelmingly pro-testing:
Coupled with the ad campaign, the group is also releasing a recently conducted poll in which 92 percent of respondents believe tests that measure problem solving and critical thinking skills are very or somewhat valuable. Seven percent said such tests are not that valuable or not valuable at all.
According to the poll, 32 percent of respondents “strongly oppose” teachers’ unions’ encouragement of parents to “opt out.” Another 19 percent “somewhat oppose” the unions’ actions. Alternatively, 26 percent “strongly support” and 16 percent “somewhat support” the unions.
The poll was conducted in late March and early April with 600 respondents and has a 4 percent margin of error.
Along with the Business Council of New York State, High Achievement New York held a roundtable discussion on Tuesday afternoon in Albany on the results of the poll as well as the “opt out” movement. National and local chambers of commerce, education stakeholder groups and public and charter school administrators, teachers and parents were represented.
The panelists attributed some parents’ and teachers’ opposition to the Common Core to misinformation and a flawed implementation statewide. Parents often don’t understand the difference between the standards themselves and the testing and evaluations that have come to be associated with the Common Core, they argued.
Some panelists said educators’ fear about how Common Core-aligned tests will impact their performance evaluations has damaged public perception of the standards.
Corporate education reformers and their supporters can hold "roundtable" discussions and release polls purported to show how much the public loves testing all they want - it's clear from the record numbers of opt-outs coming in from around the state that a large number of parents have turned against the Common Core tests and the state's Endless Testing regime agenda.
But that won't stop the corporate education reformers from spending some of the Wall Street/hedge fund money backing them to try and muddy the waters of the issue - thus their dropping six figures on pro-testing ads that will run around the state.
It remains to be seen if those ads do anything other than fill some media outlet ad coffers.
This same group - High Achievement New York, a corporate-backed "non-profit" promoting corporate education reform - ran Common Core ads last year, dropping half a million on the effort starting in May 2014.
The ads did not seem to convince many New Yorkers that Common Core is swell - a Siena poll taken in January 2015 showed that New Yorkers opposed Common Core implementation 49%-33%.
Reformers are losing the battle over testing, no matter how many ads they run, how many roundtables they hold, how many rallies they have.
The record number of opt outs around the state this year shows where many parents stand on Common Core standardized testing and their children's education.