Growing number of Long Island parents opt out of Common Core exams

By Amanda Ocasio, Rayvin Bleu and Stephen Levine

When the Common Core exams were first given in 2013, only about 1,000 students on Long Island opted out of the tests. Two years later, that number has risen above 100,000 and the debate over  Common Core has only intensified.

According to a Newsday report, 130,000 students across Nassau and Suffolk County have opted out of the Common Core exams so far this year. The Long Island Opt Out Movement was started by North Bellmore mother, Jeanette Deutermann, two and a half years ago after realizing what the tests were doing to her own children.

“What I found out was something that set alarms off for me,” Deutermann said. “Once I got enough information to educate other people was when I started my Facebook page to teacher other parents what I had learned and to see if I could do something to stop it. Then it started to take off.”

Jeanette Deutermann has led the Opt Out Movement On Long Island. LIR Photo Credit:Courtesy of Jeanette Deutermann.

Jeanette Deutermann has led the Opt Out Movement On Long Island. LIR Photo Credit:Courtesy of Jeanette Deutermann.

This movement has started a debate between parents who are against the tests, and the New York State Education Department [NYSED], which created the Common Core Standards to help families and teachers see where students measure up against their peers and gauge their potential for success in future educational endeavors in high school and college.

Board of Regents disagrees

“I believe that test refusal is a terrible mistake because it eliminates important information about how our kids are doing,” said Board of Regent Chancellor, Merryl Tisch in a speech given to the New York State Council of School Superintendents in March 2015. “Why on earth would you not want to know whether your child is on track for success in the fifth grade or success in college?”

Despite the NYSED’s claim that new Common Core exams are benefitting the children, educators across New York feel that the exams were rushed and therefore do not have important educational value for students.

“I carefully looked at standards and the tests in the elementary grades and I believe they are​developmentally inappropriate,” said Carol Buris, principal at South Side High School in Rockville Centre. “It gives a reductionist view of reading and math standards. The tests for grades 3-8 appear to be far more difficult then they need to be for those grade levels.”

When the Grades 3-8 Common Core Assessment Results were first released in August 2013, the percentage of students deemed proficient was much lower than in 2011-12. Only 31.8% of grade 3-8 students across the state met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard, and only 31% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard per a 2013 press release from the NYSED.

Opt Out rates have increased substantially in 2015. LIR Photo Credit: Stephen Levine

Opt Out rates have increased substantially in 2015. LIR Photo Credit: Stephen Levine

Despite the low scores, State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said that the results were expected by the NYSED since the Common Core standards now reflect a student’s progress towards college and career readiness.
The Opt Out Movement is gaining momentum and they are hoping to reform the Common Core exams.

“We want to get back to reasonable testing,” Deutermann said. “The length, needs to be cut down. There is no reason for students to be taking tests that are longer than the bar exam. Hopefully we’ll force legislation to fix this problem of testing.”

Buris believes that this movement will eventually force the state to enact a new system for testing. “I think that eventually they will have no choice,” Buris said. “It’s growing each year and parents are growing angrier each year. At some point something has to give, it’s just a matter of how much. It’s really just a matter of time. How many years will be wasted on a broken system?”

Although parents are divided, there are those that feel that there is a common ground that will work and will appease both the parents and the department of education. Rita Johnson, the parent of a Brookdale School District student, stated that “there will always be exams that students will have to take like the SAT’s and they can’t just opt out. The exams could be beneficial if the teachers are given the appropriate training and support to properly teach and administer the exam.