Opting out continues to gain momentum in Riverhead, SWR schools

A large percentage of students in Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River refused to take the state-mandated English Language Arts assessment Tuesday, according to numbers provided by school officials.

At the Riverhead School District, nearly 39.3 percent of students who were expected to take state-mandated ELA assessments Tuesday declined to sit for the exams.

Superintendent Nancy Carney said 805 students out of 2,050 students did not take ELA assessments, which are in progress through Thursday.

Riverhead School District breakdown:

• Aquebogue: 180 eligible, 68 refused
• Phillips: 230 eligible, 17 refused
• Riley: 268 eligible, 104 refused
• Roanoke: 144 eligible, 15 refused
• Pulaski: 795 eligible, 300 refused
• Middle school: 733 eligible, 301 refused

Ms. Carney didn’t immediately provide test refusal data separated by grade level.

Last year, about 26 percent of Riverhead School District students refused to take the ELA exams and about 34 percent opted out of the math assessments.

Math assessment testing is scheduled for April 13-15.

The number of students refusing to take the exams has continued to grow for the past four years and educators say current test scores don’t provide a clear picture of a school’s ability to educate youth.

[Related story: Did more outspoken leadership play a role in ‘opt out’ results?]

A high percentages of ELA opt outs were also reported Tuesday at the Shoreham-Wading River School District.

Superintendent Steven Cohen said nearly 74 percent students opted out of the exams, up one percent from the prior year.

On Tuesday, 803 students out of 1,090 students did not take ELA assessments, he said.

The state’s current approach to improving public education has disrupted the normal operations of school districts enough to “make one’s head spin,” he added.

“Going to school these days — and working with students in those school — has become less and less about real learning and more and more about dealing with a state bureaucracy and Legislature that have completely lost their way when it comes to an area of public policy,” Dr. Cohen said. “And, sadly, the poorer the family and the greater the need, the more the suffering.”

Shoreham-Wading River School District breakdown:

3rd grade: 153 eligible, 115 refused
4th grade: 165 eligible, 127 refused
5th grade: 184 eligible, 143 refused
6th grade: 188 eligible, 140 refused
7th grade: 189 eligible, 135 refused
8th grade: 211 eligible, 143 refused

The Riverhead Charter School experienced a slight increase in opt-out numbers Tuesday compared to the previous year, with 30 out of 220 students refusing to take the exam.

Charter school executive director and principal Raymond Ankrum said in an email 14 percent of 220 students eligible to take the ELA exam opted out Tuesday. Last year, 12 percent of students refused to take ELA assessments, he added.

“While we respect our parents right to refuse standardized assessments, RCS remains an #Optin school,” he said. “We value the data obtained from NY State Common Core Assessments, as well as the value of having high standards for students and families. Our teachers have embraced the highest levels of accountability for themselves and, as a collective group, we know that these types of assessments prepare students to enter the colleges of their choice.”

Mr. Ankrum added, “These tests also highlight the racial disparities that exists amongst the affluent and non-affluent. We hope to continue to show growth with the hardest to reach subgroups, African-American and Latino students.”

Riverhead Charter School breakdown:

3rd grade: 50 eligible, 6 refused
4th grade: 47 eligible, 8 refused
5th grade: 52 eligible, 8 refused
6th grade: 29 eligible, 4 refused
7th grade: 24 eligible, 3 refused
8th grade: 18 eligible, 1 refused

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