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Over 50 students kept out of state testing at local schools

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MASSENA - Approximately 5 percent of the eighth graders at J.W. Leary Junior High School in Massena did not take part in this week’s Common Core English language arts test.

State testing began Tuesday for English language arts, and Massena Central School Interim Superintendent William H. Flynn said parents of 21 out of the 470 students opted to keep their child from taking the tests.

Three students also opted out of testing for elementary students at Jefferson Elementary School, three opted out at Madison Elementary School and five opted out at Nightengale Elementary School.

Potsdam had 27 students opt out of taking the test, while St. Lawrence Central had five, Parishville-Hopkinton had two and Norwood-Norfolk had one. No students opted out at Colton-Pierrepont Central School.

Evelyn M. Fiske, Massena’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said Massena students who were not taking the test were kept in separate locations from the testing sites.

If the child brought in a letter, they were kept in an alternate location. They were not brought to the testing site,” she said.

“They were supervised. I know that in some school districts the students were kept at the testing site. Our administrators elected to do it another way,” Mr. Flynn said.

The Common Core program was designed to create national standards that would ensure students were college- or career ready by the time they graduated. But some parents, believing the curriculum and testing were implemented too quickly, opted not to have their child participate in this week’s test. The state Board of Regents in February delayed full implemented of Common Core standards because of the widespread frustration and anxiety about the tests.

“Certainly we respect parent’s choices as it relates to their own child,” Ms. Fiske said.

Mr. Flynn said information parents may have read or heard about the Common Core may have led them to pull their child out of the tests.

“There’s been stuff available on the Internet and even certainly newspaper stories. We’ve had people speaking on television, politicians and others who’ve encouraged them to opt out for one reason or another,” he said.

“I think we were surprised (by the numbers),” Ms. Fiske said. “I think it has been difficult, especially at the middle level, because Common Core was implemented very quickly. They didn’t have the benefit of the previous year’s instruction. It was intense for our teachers and students and most likely for parents.

“Certainly the rigor has changed with Common Core. I think parents who are choosing not to have their children participate might possibly disagree with the Common Core in itself. But certainly Common Core has its benefits if we’re going to prepare children for the types of careers that will be available when they graduate,” she said.

She said schools needed to look at increasing the rigor of their instruction, which they do with the Common Core.

“If you look at our technical writing, all kinds of different information that students would need to read, whether it’s auto body or any type of technical science information, the readability is very high,” Ms. Fiske said.

Because some students did not take the test she said that would skew the district’s numbers. If they don’t meet the required participation rate, it could affect the schools adequate yearly progress measure from the state Education Department, which is used to judge whether Massena Central is a school in good standing, she said.

“There are ramifications for the district if the parents choose not to have their student participate,” she said.

“There are some funding implications. If we don’t meet adequate yearly progress, then we could lose some funding for our schools,” Mr. Flynn said.

From the 2005 New York State Learning Standards exam, fourth grade version:
Find the area of a rectangle by counting the number of squares needed to cover it.
From the Common Core exam, third grade version:
Use tiling to show in a concrete case that the area of a rectangle with whole number side lengths a and b+c is the sum of a*c and b*c. Use area models to represent the distributive property in mathematical reasoning. Recognize area as additive. Find areas of rectilinear figures by decomposing them into non-overlapping rectangles and adding the areas of the non-overlapping parts, applying this technique to solve real world problems.
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