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More students opt out of Common Core math exams than English

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WATERTOWN — More north country parents pulled their children from the Common Core math proficiency exams compared with the English language arts test.

In Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, 31 districts reported that 516 students — 277 more than with the ELA — opted out of taking the math exams in grades three through eight.

In Jefferson County, excluding General Brown Central School, more than 280 students opted out of the math exams, 160 more than those who refused the ELA exam. In Lewis County, 32 students declined the math test compared with 21 who eschewed the ELA exam. In St. Lawrence County, 15 schools reported 201 students skipped the math test, 103 more than with the ELA exam.

State Education Department policy does not allow students to opt out. Education Department spokesman Jonathan D. Burman said this could leave blank marks on their education records, but the state cannot force anyone to take a test.

Mr. Burman said federal rules regarding Common Core exam compliance require that 95 percent of eligible students take the exams. Schools that fall below that rate may lose their so-called good-standing status.

Superintendent Frederick E. Hall Jr. said at Sackets Harbor Central School, the number of students who opted out rose from 10 on the ELA exam to 14 on the math test. “Four students for a small school is a lot,” Mr. Hall said. He said the district may fail to meet the 95 percent participation requirement.

Mr. Burman said that when students opt out of state tests, districts and schools risk losing grants, such as Reward School Grants, that require them to progress and remain in good standing as a condition for funding.

“When students don’t take the state tests, their parents, teachers and principals don’t have a chance to see how they’re doing, in objective terms, against other children in their school, their district, the region and across the state,” Mr. Burman said. “That’s the consequence we’re most concerned about.”

Mr, Hall said that, up to this year, most schools were not even close to making the list of those needing improvement.

“I think there is a greater knowledge that the opt-out option was out there for (the math) test,”Indian River Central School Superintendent James Kettrick said. He said he doesn’t think many people are refusing to take the test because they object to the Common Core standards.

In part, it may reflect parents’ attitudes toward an increasing number of standardized tests.

Not every school district had students opt out. Lyme, Harrisville and Lisbon central schools had no students opt out of either test.

“I think as a school system, we tried to discuss how the Common Core fits into the curriculum and not just how it helps take tests,” Lyme Central School Superintendent Karen M. Donahue said. “We’ve had a good response with our parents nights. We try to stress that this test is one of many ways to try to see how kids are going to be evaluated, so we can watch their progress.”

LaFargeville Central School Superintendent Travis W. Hoover said some students who had refused to take the ELA test took the math exam. He said some parents and their children may have changed their minds about the tests after studying the curriculum more thoroughly.

Ultimately, it is their choice, he said.

Belleville Henderson Superintendent Rick T. Moore said he would like to see how the state responds to districts with students who refuse to take the tests.

“We teach and we educate our children, and a test is just one small part of how we measure what they learn,” Mr. Moore said. “No system is perfect. We’re all working through this process.”

Common core opt out The number of students per school district who did not take the Common Core math and English language arts tests:
JEFFERSON COUNTY
Carthage: Math 73, ELA 30. Indian River: Math 85, ELA 20. Sackets Harbor: Math 14, ELA 10. Watertown: Math 40, ELA 20. Lyme: Math 0, ELA 0. Thousand Islands: Math 29, ELA 11. Alexandria: Math 10, ELA 8. LaFargeville: Math 8, ELA 5. South Jefferson: Math 16, ELA 13. Belleville Henderson: Math 5, ELA 3. (Missing: General Brown)

LEWIS COUNTY
Copenhagen: Math 4, ELA 2. Lowville: Math 14, ELA 11. South Lewis: Math 6, ELA 0. Harrisville: Math 0, ELA 0. Beaver River: Math 8, ELA 8.

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY
Colton-Pierrepont: Math 1, ELA 0. Ogdensburg: Math 11, ELA 7. Massena: Math 72, ELA 33. Norwood-Norfolk: Math 5, ELA 1. Parishville-Hopkinton: Math 4, ELA 1. Potsdam: Math 56, ELA 27. St. Lawrence: Math 10, ELA 5. Canton: Math 8, ELA 7. Hermon-DeKalb Math 2, ELA 0. Morristown: Math 5, ELA 2. Clifton-Fine: Math 3, ELA 0. Gouverneur Math 13, ELA 9. Lisbon: Math 0, ELA 0. Hammond: Math 3, ELA 3. Heuvelton: Math 8, ELA 2. (Missing: Madrid-Waddington, Edwards-Knox)
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