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Carthage Central School students who ‘opt out’ of Common Core tests can read instead

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WEST CARTHAGE — Conceding to parents’ requests, the Board of Education decided students who opt out of taking the mandated Common Core standards tests can read a book instead of sitting and staring while their classmates take tests.

Peter J. Turner, Carthage Central School District superintendent, said the state doesn’t recognize an “opt out” clause.

“The state’s answer is you have to take the test,” Mr. Turner said. “But if people are refusing, the Board of Education is comfortable with them reading instead of taking the test.”

Abigail L. Staab, whose son is a third-grader at the school, said she is very pleased with the decision.

“I think this will help everyone involved — parents, teachers and especially the students,” Mrs. Staab said.

Last year, Mrs. Staab said, she and her husband, Adam J. Staab, sat down with their son and talked about why they didn’t want him to take the Common Core tests.

“When we spoke to him we tried to make the point that not all assessments are bad; they are for teachers to know what he is learning and what he might need help with,” Mrs. Staab said. “We think that the Common Core standard assessments don’t do that.”

They decided to write a letter to the school district to inform officials that their son wouldn’t be taking the Common Core tests.

On the days of testing, she said, the only options provided for them was to have their child leave school for the hour or so while his classmates were taking the English language arts and math tests or sit quietly in the testing room with nothing in front of him.

“We would love it if the state would respect the rights of parents to choose, and let our kids read so they don’t feel they’re being punished,” Mrs. Staab said.

She said that as parents, she and her husband felt many of the new initiatives being adopted by the state Education Department are too experimental to be beneficial.

“We are trying to remove our kids from the equation because we feel it’s best,” she said.

Mr. Turner said very few students opted out of taking the tests last year and fewer than a dozen children will be opting out for the tests that begin April 1.

Mr. Turner said he supports students taking the mandated tests, but if parents wish to opt out, a formal letter must be sent to the school before the day of testing. He said in the long term he worries about what will be the result for students who don’t take the tests.

Cammy J. Morrison, superintendent of General Brown Central School, said that her school hasn’t seen parents or students who have asked to opt out of the Common Core tests.

Lowville Central School Superintendent Cheryl R. Steckly said she hopes “opting out” doesn’t become a growing trend.

“We use the information from testing to track students’ academic progress,” Mrs. Steckly said. “The state mandates we provide additional support for students who need it, and it becomes a little harder to track that if we don’t have the test results from those tests.”

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