NYS Education Dept. responds to high Common Core opt out numbers

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York State Education Department explained the possible consequences school districts could face with high Common Core opt out numbers.

With parents keeping thousands of children from taking part in the English and Language Arts tests on Tuesday, many are still wondering how the high opt out numbers will affect school district funding. It has prompted concerns among superintendents as they don’t know what the consequences will be.

The U.S. Department of Education requires that 95 percent of all students take the assessments. If schools don’t reach that number for three consecutive years, the schools could face greater state oversight and a loss of federal funding.

“There’s federal funds, Title One funds that are tied to these kinds of measures, and those consequences take a little bit longer to factor in,” NYS Education Policy Senior Deputy Commissioner Ken Wagner said. “But both New York State as a whole could see consequences around participation as well as individual school districts.”

School districts across the Capital Region reported anywhere from 2 percent to 53 percent of students did not take the tests. Wagner called the numbers disappointing.

“It’s really a critical part of the instructional program, so parents and students and principals and the public has information about how all of our kids are doing,” he said.

Dorie Nolt, the Press Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education released the following statement:

“It is the responsibility of states to ensure that all students are assessed annually because it gives educators and parents an idea of how the student is doing and ensures that schools are paying attention to traditionally underserved populations like low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities and English language learners. The Department has not had to withhold money – yet – over this requirement because states have either complied or have appropriately sanctioned schools or districts that assessed less than 95 percent of students.”

Wagner said students should participate in state testing.

“Tests are a required part of the instructional program just like math or science is a required part,” he said. “So I think we all have to be careful about the messages we’re sending to our students if we somehow send the message that it’s okay to not participate in things that are important.”

The federal government will make case-by-case determinations on how it changes school funding.

“The Feds have also indicated that they’ll be interested in making case-by-case determinations at both the state level and the district level about what exactly the school community did to encourage participation,” Wagner said.

Dr. Lori Caplan is the superintendent of the Watervliet City School District.

“It’s become about the adults,” she said. “It’s become politicized. It’s become publicized.”

Dr. Caplan said that’s the reason why so many parents have chosen to opt their kids out of the state exams. In Watervliet, about six percent of students did not take the tests.

“I want the students to show growth; that’s the purpose of the test,” she said. “That’s what we’re looking for, and if the teachers are embedding the Common Core and implementing good teaching practices in their classrooms every day, growth is going to happen.”