Errors in Education: Students Opt Out of Common Core Test

Photo by David Khorassani.

Remember how long and grueling the SAT and NATs were? Every hour taking those exams was like a prison sentence. Fortunately, the younger generation won’t fear them like the previous did. Why?

Because now there are testing systems that are far worse. One type, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is coming up in April, which is right around the corner.

There has been a rise in the difficulty of standardized testing over the past few years. This overemphasis on testing is detrimental to students, teachers and schools alike. In an attempt to protest them, students and parents have opted out of taking part in the tests. They are now fighting for their right to proper education.

“It was Gandhi who said, ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,’ we are in the fighting stage now,” Lisa Rudley said. Rudley is co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, (NYSAPE).

The Education Matters panel discussed the movement at an event called “Grassroot Activism,” on Friday, March 11, in Lecture Center 108. They talked about the powerful effects opting out of these tests can have on public education in New York State.

“If we keep refusing these tests, then we will see a change when the state is forced to respond to these large numbers,” Rudley said.

According to Rudley, these tests are not what they seem. Despite how successful Gov. Cuomo says they are, the relation of the increase in difficulty for the tests and the number of failures generated is unprecedented. Rudley said that more and more people are waking up to the “absurdity” of these tests. Last spring, 240,000 students refused to take the tests.

The event’s speakers, all with a wide background of education activism, agree with Rudley as do the people who call for better education in New York. Jia Lee, a member of Movement of Rank and File Educators, said people should fight for a different kind of education.

According to Lee, people don’t need individuals on a board that figure out what education is for students. She said education is about student-driven instruction, expressing oneself, being resourceful and being inclusive.

“I like to light that fire in them, because my students can carry that with them forever,” Lee said. “We have an ethical and moral obligation to students for opting out of these tests, the consequences of not are far greater.”

The state, despite Lee’s claims, has always pushed the idea that students only have to try harder at studying to succeed in school and the current means of teaching do not have to change. Bianca Tanis, part of the Rethinking Testing group, disagrees, saying these tests give impossible standards to students and only serve to harm them.

According to Tanis, the board said the Common Core standards are meant to prepare students for college. Instead, these scores have reduced the grades of students to below acceptable levels for graduation and have had schools shut down.

“Teaching isn’t just a profession, we work for them and stuff like this doesn’t work for them,” Tanis said. “Kid’s will soon be unable to recapture joy in learning, we have to act now to save this generation of students.”

However, with fear of repercussions, many people and school districts have gone through with participating in these standardized tests anyway. But according to Marla Kilfoyle, executive director in the Badass Teachers organization, (BAT), threats for opting out of these tests are nonexistent.

Refusing these tests are perfectly within the student and parents’ rights, according to Kilfoyle. She said opting out of these tests have no legal consequences for students and even some school districts. In the Comsewogue School District, there was no report of monetary decline even though 80 percent of students opted out of these tests.