"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Almost Half of Worcester Central School Students Refuse State Tests

Jim Poole

Nearly half the students at Worcester Central School refused to take mandated tests in third through eighth grades.

Thanks to a concerted social media effort, 45 percent of the students--maybe the highest percentage in the state--opted out of the English Language Arts and math tests.

Repercussions for the school lie in the future and are unclear, according to Superintendent Bill Diamond.

Fed up with mandates and standardized tests, Stacy Serdy, the mother of three elementary students, led the social media efforts.

"It really has nothing to do with our school," said Ms. Serdy, who's also running unopposed for the school board.

"It has to do with the Governor, Commissioner of Education and mandates."

The state and federal governments use standardized assessment tests to grade student performance and how well teachers are meeting goals.

Ms. Serdy disagrees.

"Teachers shouldn't be rated on one test, and neither should students," she said.

She formed the group Worcester Community for Education on facebook, and the organization has 170 members. The group started in November and aims at "informing, not pressuring" parents, Ms. Serdy said.

She's proud of getting parents of 45 percent of the students--71 kids--to opt out.

"We're saying, 'We don't like this. Stop. Figure something else out,' " Ms. Serdy said.

Parents sent letters to the school asking to have their children not take the tests, and "we honored those requests," Mr. Diamond said.
"I know of no other school that had such a high percentage," he added.

By comparison, Sharon Springs--about the same size as Worcester--had 11 students, or nine percent, opt out.

Worcester parents were specific about the tests. Some wanted to break the connection between assessments and teacher evaluation, some felt children were too stressed, a few said the testing takes away from valuable classroom time, and some believed there was simply too much testing.

Some schools require that the non-test-takers remain in the testing room. Worcester allowed the students to go to the library, Mr. Diamond said.

Mandates require that 95 percent of each school's third- through eighth-graders take the test. If a school fails to reach 95 percent for two straight years, it may need to "address" that shortfall, Mr. Diamond said.

It's not clear, however, how a school would do so. Mr. Diamond said the tests are federally mandated, so Worcester may have to use a portion of the $100,000 it receives from Washington for whatever's required.

"How do we address this? I have no idea," Mr. Diamond said. "There's no guidance from State Ed."

It's also possible, he added, that there may no repercussions at all.

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