Opting Out of Standardized Tests
BY NIKKI DUKOFF and CHLOE CITRON
Standardized tests are being administered to children in grades three through eight throughout the New York State public school system. Over the years, these tests have had adverse effects on some students, causing parents and school administrators to question whether or not students should be permitted to “opt out” of standardized tests. Jericho is taking a different path when it comes to giving students the option of opting out of such exams.
Parents have a myriad of concerns about standardized tests. Denise Nash, who is in charge of Jericho’s public relations, explained that parents are still unsure about what to do when it comes to opting out. “From the meetings that we’ve had, parents for the most part are still learning,” she said. “They’re still curious [about] what it means, and they’re still curious about the tests.”
One Jericho parent, Lauren Rosenblatt, plans to have her child opt out of the standardized tests. “I don’t want my child to have to stress out about a state test. It is difficult for him to sit still for 90 minutes doing something he enjoys. Sitting for an exam for 90 minutes without breaks or prompting is too much.” Aside from being adverse to the length of the test, Rosenblatt also believes the tests are not needed in Jericho to evaluate the achievements of students and teachers. “His teachers know exactly where he is with his learning needs. We are in a top school district, and I don’t think we need a state exam to tell us where our teachers are. I think there are ways to raise standards without putting the burden on our kids.”
Jericho superintendent Mr. Henry Grishman said that there is a directive from the state that requires students who “opt out” of an exam to be in the classroom where the test is being administered, even if they are not taking it. “What we’re doing is disregarding that,” Mr. Grishman said of the aforementioned state mandate. Jericho has formed a Testing Resolution to accommodate students who choose to opt out. “So if we get a letter from somebody’s parent that says, ‘I don’t want my son to take the test,’ we are not even putting them in the testing room environment. We are just putting them in an alternate place. So we open up the libraries of the elementary schools and middle school and say we don’t want any pressure or stress.”
“Personally, when I have spoken to parents, and they’ve said that their fourth grader might be an anxious kid who’s a little nervous about school, doesn’t test well, gets upset during testing, and comes home with a stomach ache, I would encourage the parent in that situation to consider making the decision to opt out,” said Mr. Grishman. “When I’ve talked to parents of seventh and eighth grade kids, I say that there might be some value in having them sit through an eighth grade test as a preparation for the Regents exams they’re going to start to take in high school.”
Some teachers see important value in taking standardized tests. “The importance of taking standardized tests is that it provides the school with data on a student’s ability, and helps teachers plan their lessons and curriculum for students,” said Jericho Middle School teacher Mrs. Diane Stiles. However, many think that standardized exams result in teachers “teaching to the test” and focusing more on students’ test results and not on their actual learning experiences. This leads many to question if the exams are as reliable as they are intended to be.
“Sometimes the tests are a true picture of a student’s ability, but sometimes it isn’t because it is just one day in a student’s life,” Mrs. Stiles said. “If they have a bad day or didn’t test well, it’s really not an indicator of their performance.”
There are many different paths parents and school districts are taking when it comes to opting out of standardized tests, and Jericho is making accommodations for the families who choose to do so.