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April 15, 2013

Education officials discuss test opt out

PLATTSBURGH — Liv Hovis, a third-grader in the Plattsburgh City School District, is expected to begin taking state tests Tuesday, along with thousands of other students statewide.

However, Liv’s mother, Deb Hovis, has doubts about whether it’s in her daughter’s best interest.

The standardized exams assess knowledge of English language arts and math in third- through eighth-graders, as well as science beginning in fourth grade.

Deb, like a number of other parents in this area and around the state, is considered opting her daughter out of the tests, on which, she says, schools have been forced to place too much emphasis, leaving little time for classroom teachers to explore other topics of interest to students.

“I feel like the schools don’t have a choice in this, and we’re sort of being bullied into it,” she said.

NEW STANDARDS

In addition, this year’s tests are expected to cover the new, state-mandated Common Core standards, which many schools are still in the process of implementing.

“The tests have changed in content and format every year,” said Chris Ford, a guidance counselor at Willsboro Central School. “There’s been no consistency to what’s on them or how they are scored. The state also does not explain what formula is used to create the scores.”

The results of the tests have no bearing on whether a child advances to the next grade level but do indicate if a student struggles in an area of study.

Still, Deb said, the results do not provide specific details of what the child may have had difficulty with and don’t account for the fact that a student may have done poorly as the result of outside circumstances, such as missing breakfast or simply having a bad day.

“It’s just meaningless,” she said of the scores.

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