- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Common Core testing got under way in schools across New York Tuesday as questions remain about whether shortening the exams and removing results from teacher evaluations did anything to lessen the number of students “opting out.”

Anecdotal accounts indicated that districts were again seeing children refuse to take the English language arts assessments being given through Thursday in grades 3 through 8. The North Rockland district posted a 57 percent opt-out rate on Tuesday, according to The Journal News. At Ramapo Central, 42 percent of students sat out of the tests. It was not immediately known whether the overall numbers would rival last year, when 20 percent, or roughly 240,000 students, skipped testing.

In the meantime, test supporters and opponents are debating the value of the annual exercise. While scores do not affect students’ grades, the assessments are seen as a measure of understanding of the Common Core learning standards across all socio-economic and geographic areas.

In recent years - but not this year - the assessments have also been used to rate the effectiveness of teachers and principals.

“We need for our children to be evaluated so we know exactly what we need to do to help them get better,” Buffalo parent Bryon McIntyre said during a news conference with High Achievement New York, a coalition of business councils and community organizations that is urging parents to let their children take the tests.

Over the weekend, robocalls arranged by test opponents offered a different perspective, reminding parents of their right to refuse testing. United to Counter the Core said the calls generated spikes in visits to its website where parents were invited to download refusal letters to send with their children to school.

This year’s changes to the tests did not go far enough to address concerns that the assessments were too advanced and reflected unfairly on teachers and schools, the group said.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia spent part of last week touring districts that had large numbers of opt-outs last year and outlined a series of changes made since then, including replacing vendor Pearson with Questar and temporarily removing student performance from teacher evaluations.


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