As testing season draws near, more students are becoming anxious about the exams and more and more parents choosing to allow their children to refuse the state tests. The opt out movement on Long Island is growing almost daily as more people are not only getting fed up with the system, but are also learning about their options.
“I see a drastic difference from last year,” said Kim Velentzas, the Glen Cove liaison for Long Island Opt-Out, an active Facebook group. “People are really starting to pay attention.”
She said the number of “likes” the Facebook page has more than doubled in recent weeks and more parents are reaching out to her for advice on how to allow their children to refuse the state exams.
“The reality is setting in on what this means,” said Velentzas. “It’s not about the test, it’s about saving public education.”
Velentzas has two children in the Glen Cove school district and has been actively advocating against the state-mandated testing for the past three years, since her daughter was in eighth grade. A child who Velentzas describes as a good student who also tests well, she said they made the decision to opt out of the tests three years ago as a protest against the necessity of the tests and the impact they are having on younger children, including her 8-year-old son.
“He started out loving school, but as the tone of education has changed, so has his enthusiasm,” Velentzas said. “Kids have to learn to love school and learning…if they don’t learn it at an early age, you lose them.”
She said that she keeps both of her children included in the discussion about these particular tests and does leave the final decision up to them.
“He gets that there’s a difference between these tests and the weekly spelling test,” she said. “And he also knows you can’t just not take a test because you don’t feel like it.”
While she has high praise for the district and the teachers, she, like many others is frustrated with the direction she sees public education going in. She attended the forum on March 9, and while she said no new information was presented to her, she left feeling “invigorated.”
“I was reminded why I do this,” she said, noting she is already posting more on Facebook. “This is too important for me to keep quiet about.”
The Glen Cove Teachers’ Association and the Locust Valley School Employees Association are among those who have signed the “I Refuse” resolution online at New York State Allies for Public Education (www.nysape.org), an organization that provides information about the test refusal campaign statewide and resources for those considering refusing the assessments for grades 3 to 8.
While Glen Cove has no set policy in place for opting out of standardized testing, school administrators said they accommodate requests made by parents.
“The most typical manner by which a parent requests to have their children not take the test is by letter or email,” said Superintendent Maria Rianna. “Procedures are discussed among administrators so that we are consistent from building to building.”
Though no numbers were given as to how many opted out last year, Rianna said it was approximately less than 10 percent of enrolled students.
Christine Robinson, a former Glen Cove resident who teaches kindergarten in Middle Country, said she is not allowing her third-grade daughter to take the test, even though she knows she wouldn’t struggle on it.
“The test is not going to tell me anything about her,” she said.
She said has been trying to spread the word about the negative impact these tests are having on students and teachers to her friends in Glen Cove.
“I’m not sure if parents are as informed in Nassau as they are in Suffolk,” Robinson said. “The tests are developmentally inappropriate, and teachers are being discouraged…this is not what we do. We got into this because we love to teach and see the growth, but we can’t do it now. It’s not fair and something has to be done about it.”