Over 50% of students in some New York school districts are boycotting Common Core tests

Tuesday marked the start of state standardised testing in New York, and opt-out figures have been coming in as huge numbers of parents boycott standardised tests.

These tests are part of the Common Core, nationwide public school standards that some parents and teachers have attacked for putting too much of the focus on test-taking instead of learning.

The English Language Arts tests will run this week, and maths exams will start next Wednesday. While no official state-wide opt-out numbers are yet available, figures are starting to emerge at certain schools and districts.

The biggest New York state opt-out numbers look to be centered in pockets throughout Long Island, Westchester, and Buffalo, where Common Core vitriol runs particularly deep.

An anti-Common Core Facebook group called “Long Island Opt Out” has a spreadsheet containing district opt-out numbers. It has calculated many districts at over 50%, with the highest coming in at 82%.

In Mahopac, a hamlet that borders Westchester County, the school’s Superintendent, Brian Monahan, said “55% of the district’s middle school students and 45% of its elementary school students had refused the tests,” according to local newspaper The Journal News.

And at the West Seneca school District, in Buffalo, 70% of students opted out, according to The Buffalo News.

The early opt-out numbers are estimated to double the numbers from the previous year, bolstered by an outspoken opposition of parents, policy makers, and teachers unions. Earlier this month, the president of New York State United Teachers called for a mass opt-out of Common Core testing.

Screen Shot 2015 04 15 at 2.52.56 PMHigh Achievement New York2014 opt-out numbers versus income levels according to High Achievement New York.

The trend from last year — that predominantly wealthy school districts had higher numbers of opt-outs — looked to continue this year, though the full magnitude of this trend won’t be seen until official statewide numbers are finalised.

But supporters of Common Core assessments are quick to point out that even though these numbers look large, most kids in New York state will still take the tests.

“You’re going to have 1 million kids take these assessments in the next two weeks, so you can’t lose sight of the fact that the vast majority are taking the assessments,” Stephen Sigmund, Executive Director of High Achievement New York, a nonprofit coalition of business and education groups, told Business Insider.

He also stressed that the assessments are a critical part of measuring student achievement, providing indicators for teachers on when to intervene to help students who struggle in school.

Ultimately, Sigmund said parents and community members were misdirecting their energy that could be better spent on providing solutions, rather than participating in a mass boycott.

“If people have idea for how to improve these assessments they should be giving those ideas up in communities, at school boards, et cetera,” Sigmund said. “There are constructive ways to improve upon them, but they shouldn’t be encouraging kids to refuse tests, and particularly the teachers unions shouldn’t be encouraging them.”

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