The national rollout of new Common Core-aligned standardized tests is running into a series of embarrassing problems, as schools grapple with both technical glitches and a growing movement of hostile parents who refuse to let their children take the tests.
Monday marked the first day of widespread testing in several states, including New Mexico, Florida and New Jersey. While several hundred high schoolers in New Mexico attracted national attention when they walked out of class to protest the exams, big problems are cropping up everywhere. (RELATED: Hundreds Of New Mexico Students Walk Out Of Common Core Tests)
Last year, in New Jersey, only 1,000 students refused to take state standardized tests. According to NJ.com, a single district has already topped that figure this year, with about 1,100 out of 4,000 eligible students in the Newark suburb of Livingston, Chris Christie’s hometown, defying the test. High opt-out rates were seen in several other cities as well. According to The Wall Street Journal, more than half of Princeton’s eligible students sat out. In Ridgewood, almost one student in six said no.
Other districts were quieter, with just a few dozen students or even less sitting out on tests, but the boycotts may be only beginning. About 100,000 tests were started in New Jersey on Monday, but the state is supposed to administer about 900,000 this year, meaning that as awareness spreads the number could balloon.
The number of opt-outs could also be suppressed by the policies in individual school districts. New Jersey law doesn’t explicitly give parents the right to pull their children from exams, so while some schools have allowed the practice, others have insisted the tests are mandatory.
Parents in New Jersey have been nudged along by the state’s teachers, many of whom are fiercely critical of new tests created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The state teachers union has even launched a television ad campaigns in which parents talk about their children being reduced to tears by the pressure of high-stakes tests. The message: Fight back by rejecting the test. (RELATED: New Jersey Teachers Make The Case For Having Students Skip Tests)
Meanwhile, in Florida, opt-outs are less of a problem, but early testing has been marred by a wave of technical glitches. The state’s new Florida Standards Assessment is supposed to be taken online, but no fewer than 36 districts in the state reported problems with the state writing test that began on Monday. In many schools, the test couldn’t be taken at all, either because students couldn’t log in or because the test was running far too slowly. In Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, which combined have over 4 million people, testing was suspended entirely after technical glitches made it impossible to continue.
Broward school board member Nora Rupert described the test implementation as a “nightmare” to the Sun-Sentinel and said the glitches showed the rollout “should have been slowed down.”
Florida state education officials downplayed the trouble, pointing out that schools had a two-week window to complete the test, so one day of delays was not a huge crisis. However, Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho blasted this reasoning, saying the tests were already compromised because some students managed to see the prompts before the tests broke down, and that problem couldn’t be resolved by simply letting some students take the test later.
“That is a clear, clear disregard for the integrity, the validity and the liability of a state assessment,” Carvalho said, according to Local10 News.
The events of the last two days could prove to be ominous for the rest of the country, as this spring marks the first time that most Common Core-adopting states will use tests aligned with the standards. If glitches prove to be persistent, or test opt-outs grow into a genuine mass movement, it will add ammunition to the demands of activists who want the standards and their accompanying tests delayed or simply thrown out entirely.
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