Math opt outs fall in North Shore schools

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A smaller proportion of North Shore public school students opted out of this week’s state math exam than in 2016, according to school district figures.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 3,403 of the 13,493 eligible students in eight local school districts — 25.2 percent — refused to take the math test for third- through eighth-graders, down from 27.2 percent last year.

The East Williston school district declined to provide numbers before the end of the tests on Thursday.

The drop matches a slight stagnation of test refusals across Long Island following growth of the movement boycotting state tests tied to the federal Common Core learning standards.

Some 52.8 percent of students in Nassau and Suffolk County school districts opted out this year, according to a Newsday survey published Tuesday. About 53 percent opted out Islandwide in 2016.

The numbers may grow by the end of the three-day test period on Thursday. Many eighth-graders in local districts take the Regents exams because they are in more advanced math classes.

Despite the slight drop, Joseph Famularo, the Bellmore school superintendent and president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, said the fact that so many students refuse the tests shows that problems remain.

“There are issues that parents and educators have with the current assessments that we’ve been sharing with the state and working with the state to come to some sort of a resolution,” Famularo said, such as the link between test scores and teacher evaluations and the content of the tests themselves.

School officials from the Great Neck, Roslyn, Manhasset, Port Washington, New Hyde Park-Garden City Park, Sewanhaka, East Williston, Mineola and Herricks school districts did not comment on the opt-out numbers.

Only two of the eight North Shore districts that reported opt-out numbers saw increases in their opt-out rates.

About 16.9 percent of eligible students in the Manhasset school district refused the test, up from 11.9 percent last year.

Opt-outs also rose slightly to 30.2 percent of eligible students from 29 percent in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park elementary school district, which serves kindergarten through sixth grade.

But the opt-out rate fell slightly to 41.4 percent — still the highest among local districts — from 43 percent in the Sewanhaka Central High School District, into which New Hyde Park-Garden City Park students feed. Seventh- and eighth-graders take the state tests in Sewanhaka’s five high schools.

The Roslyn school district saw its refusal rate drop about 8 percentage points to 28.1 percent from 36.3 percent, the largest decline among local districts.

The Mineola school district saw the smallest change — refusals dropped 0.17 percentage points to 23.72 percent.

Herricks schools saw the smallest opt-out rate this year, with 14.6 percent of students refusing, down from about 18 percent in 2016.

Some 27 percent of Port Washington students opted out, down from about 30 percent last year.

And the Great Neck school district’s opt-out rate fell to 18.7 percent from 22.3 percent in 2016.

Critics of the state’s Common Core exams say they are unnecessarily difficult and treat teachers unfairly by linking tests scores with performance reviews.

The math tests started the same day that the state Education Department released revisions to the state’s English and math learning standards following a two-year review process.

The changes include the creation of state-specific guidelines for implementing the national English standards; and clarifying and consolidating some math standards.

Changes to the tests will eventually follow the updates to the standards, Famularo said. Teachers and superintendents would like the state to implement “adaptive” tests, which would use computer software to adjust the difficulty of questions as a student progresses through the exam, he said.

“The frustration level is not there for the student and it truly assesses what levels the student is at,” Famularo said.

About the author

Noah Manskar

Noah Manskar is the assistant managing editor for Blank Slate Media and a reporter covering the Willistons, New Hyde Park and Nassau County government.
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