By Danny Schrafel
Update: The Commack School District as of April 16 reported that of 3,171 students in grades 3-8, 1,722, or 54.3 percent, "refused the entire test." In Harborfields, 31 percent of students refused the ELA assessment based on parents' requests, according to an April 16 letter signed by Superintendent Diana Todaro. In Huntington, 333 students, or approximately 16 percent, opted out of the test.
Thousands of Huntington Township students in grades 3-8 did not take state English Language Arts examinations this week, according to statistics released by two school districts.
South Huntington School District Superintendent David Bennardo, in a statement posted to the district’s Facebook page Tuesday night, said that 755 of 2,716 students in the Silas Wood sixth-grade center, Stimson Middle School, Birchwood Intermediate School and Maplewood Intermediate Schools did not take the state exams. Those figures represent 33 percent of Silas Wood students, 32 percent of Stimson students, 17 percent of Birchwood and 29 percent of Maplewood students, for a total of 28 percent refusal.
Those figures do not distinguish between those who refused the tests and those who were absent for another reason.
Bennardo said he made the decision to release the numbers sooner rather than later in light of a “considerable number” of parent and media requests.
“While the controversy and attention surrounding New York State testing is simply unavoidable, our community members were largely respectful of their neighbors and allowed personal family choice to unfold naturally throughout the day,” Bennardo said Tuesday.
In Elwood, more than a quarter of students in grades 3-5 at James H. Boyd Intermediate School opted out; at Elwood Middle School, 38 percent of students refused the test.
District spokesperson Beth Izzo said 26.8 percent of grade 3 students refused the exam as of Wednesday; in grade 4, 31.9 percent refused. Eighteen percent of grade 5 students, 37.9 percent of grade six, 39.6 percent of grade 7 and 36.4 percent of grade 8 students opted out, Izzo said.
Opting out, or refusing the tests, has become a rallying cry of advocates against the Common Core, a national curriculum adopted by 44 states in 2010 – including New York – to create consistent educational standards across the country and ensure pupils are college- and work-ready when they graduate high school.
Other districts were not as immediately forthcoming with figures.
Harborfields and Huntington school officials did not respond to requests for figures by press time. Cold Spring Harbor officials directed questions related to test refusals to Superintendent Judith Wilansky, who was out of the office at press time Wednesday. The superintendent’s office in Half Hollow Hills did not provide figures by press time Wednesday.
Commack school officials declined to provide test-refusal numbers Wednesday.
Northport officials said the final number of students who opted out “will be tallied after all tests have been administered.”
State education leaders have warned districts that the tests are federally mandated and that federal aid penalties may result if participation rates fall below 95 percent.
But a live spreadsheet maintained by opt-out advocate Jeanette Deutermann, founder of the Long Island Opt Out Info Facebook page and the New York State Allies for Public Education is reporting that as many as 63,000 children were opted-out of tests on Long Island.
In Commack and Harborfields, citing district totals, Deutermann’s spreadsheet reports 1,567 and 431 eligible students, respectively, opted out; in Northport-East Northport, citing on-the-ground reports from parents, they’re claiming as many as half, or 1,330, refused tests. Brenda Lentsch, a spokesperson for the Commack School District, denies the district has furnished any figures.
James Graber, president of the Associated Teachers of Huntington, said the high refusal numbers and the opt-out movement reflect parents and teachers who are “deeply frustrated with the Governor’s agenda of over testing.”
“We believe that testing can be a useful diagnostic tool when created to inform instruction, can be used to identify individual strengths and weaknesses of students, and is developmentally appropriate,” he said. “It is not clear that the tests foisted upon schools meet these criteria. Parents are aware that these tests fall short of those expectations and have responded in a way that few find surprising.”
-Andrew Wroblewski and Carina Livoti contributed to this report.