Fewer students opt-out of state tests in Hudson this year

HUDSON–Fewer students in Hudson City School District grades 3-through-8 refused to take the state assessment tests this year. But almost one of every three 8th graders did not take the math tests. The state tests and the problem of what happens when very young students don’t have a designated older person to greet them at their bus stop were among the topics discussed by the Board of Education April 19.

At the same meeting the board approved the proposed 2016-17 budget, which will go before district voters May 17.

When taking students home, school bus drivers have instructions to let little children off the bus only if a parent or other designated person is waiting at the child’s bus stop. When no such person is there, the child must remain on the bus, which then finishes its normal run and returns the child to the school. Schools Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier told the board that this happens frequently enough that “we have an issue” with it. She called the failure of a responsible person to pick up children at bus stops “traumatic for the child,” adversely affecting the child’s social and emotional development.

Of particular concern are parents who “consistently aren’t showing up at bus stops.” After the same child ends up back at school three times, the district sends a letter to the child’s parents.

Board member Sage Marie Carter asked whether Community Schools, which is working to raise attendance rates, could “help out” getting designated people to bus stops.

At the meeting Dr. Suttmeier also reported an increase compared to last year in the percentage of students who took the state standard assessment tests rather than opting out of the controversial exams. About 15% of eligible 3-8th grade students opted out of the ELA exam this year compared to about 21% last year.

Board Vice President David Kisselburgh suggested that the participation rate increase might have been the result of less media attention on those who refused to take the test.

Board member William Kappel noted that this year’s tests did not have strict time limits. He said his son did not take the test last year because of concerns he would not be able to finish it on time; this year, with unlimited time, his son participated.

Mr. Kappel asked why the state allows “the option of opting out” of student assessment tests.

April Prestipino, the district coordinator of school improvement, said that faced with 200,000 students opting out last year “the state has no capacity to go after” all of them.

“Opting out is civil disobedience, and people have a right to exercise civil disobedience,” said Dr. Suttmeier.

A student can be denied a diploma for failing to take Regents exams but not for avoiding assessment tests.

For both ELA and math assessment tests, participation decreases as age increases. This year for ELA, less than 7.5% of 3rd and 4th graders opted out but 26.5% of eighth graders did so. For math, only 9.3% of 3rd graders opted out but 32.7% of eighth graders did. (See table.)

At all grade levels, the ELA test has a higher participation rate than the math test. Ms. Prestipino speculated that one reason might be that the ELA test comes first, and the math test follows after only a “short break,” so the students “are already tired from the ELA test.”

When asked whether assessment test participation rates affect funding, Ms. Prestipino said that the state does not penalize districts now but penalties could be imposed in the future.

The next school board meeting will be Monday, May 9 at 7 p.m. at the Hudson High School library and will include a hearing on the proposed 2016-17 budget.

HUDSON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT % OF STUDENTS REFUSING TO TAKE 2016 STATE ASSESSMENT TESTS

Grade ELA % Math %

3       7.28       9.27

4       7.04      11.35

5      12.73     17.43

6      18.98     25.19

7     17.99      29.37

8     26.50      32.73

____________________

Total 14.70     20.41

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