Parents weighing options on opting children out of state testing

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - As state testing approaches, Central New York parents continue to struggle with whether or not to allow their children to take the tests or opt-out on their behalf.

BOCES District Superintendent Mark Vivacqua says if his now-adult son were back in school, he'd be taking the state tests.

"If students don't take the test, we won't have a measure of their growth toward these common core standards," Vivacqua said. "It's just one measure. It's not as though the world will end, but it's less information. If enough students don't take the tests, we're going to be mismeasuring schools and school districts."

New Hartford mom Jessica McNair says can't see any good reason to opt in for the standardized test.

"Parents found out that they didn't get feedback from the tests and the scores that came back; they just got a number," McNair said. "It's very vague, ambiguous and they thought, 'Why put my kid through a minimum of 400 minutes of testing just so my kid can be reduced to a number and instruction can be reduced to test prep in the months leading up to the test?' " said McNair.

As for your child's school district losing Title I funding if fewer than 95 percent of students take the state tests, both McNair nor Vivacqua say that's not going to happen.

"Theoretically, it could, but no, that won't happen," Vivacqua said. "But I think the idea that schools will lose money -- the federal government isn't in the practice of subtracting federal aid from schools because participation is low. I wouldn't expect that to happen."

Vivacqua says that there is no protocol for opting out of the test.

"The state hasn't given any guidance to school districts about what to do about opting out because technically there's no such thing. There's no provision for opting out," said Vivacqua.

The short answer on how to go about opting out if you choose to: Send a written communication to your child's school.

"All the state has done in terms of guidance is remind superintendents that they're not obligated to make any alternate provisions for children who are refusing to take the tests," said Vivacqua, adding that individual districts are deciding what, based on their test-day resources, to do with children who opt out. 

Anyone contemplating refusing the state tests on their child's behalf should act quickly; state testing begins April 2.

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