MARION, N.Y. – The controversy surrounding the new Common Core-aligned standardized tests is causing some New York school leaders to act as childish and immature as the students they are supposed to be leading.
13WHAM.com reports at least 16 school districts in the Empire State have implemented a “sit and stare” policy for students who’ve been opted-out of the state assessments by their parents.
These students “will have to sit at their desks without any other reading or testing materials, while all the students around them take the 60- to 90-minute exams,” the news site reports.
It’s not difficult to read between the lines here. The “sit and stare” policy is a way petty and vindictive school principals and superintendents can get back at parents who are pushing back against the Common Core experiment.
The parents are making the school leaders’ lives more difficult, so they’re going to return the favor – by making the children pay.
That’s not just our interpretation of what’s happening; the leader of the state’s largest teachers union sees it the same way.
“This (‘sit and stare’) policy aimed at students whose parents elect to ‘opt out’ their children from state standardized testing is unconscionable,” said Richard Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers, in a February press release.
“This is cruel to those students not taking the exam and a distraction and disservice to those who are attempting to complete it,” Iannuzzi added. “Punishing or embarrassing children because their parents exercised their right to choose not to have their children participate in tests they consider inappropriate is, frankly, abusive.”
Kathryn Wegman, the superintendent of one of the “sit and stare” districts, defended the policy by noting state law does not contain a provision that allows parents to opt their children out of state-required tests.
But one expert on the subject recently told Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute that there’s not a state in the nation “that has a ‘no opt-out’ clause” in its law. In other words, what state law doesn’t forbid, parents can do. That means opting out of the test is their legal privilege.
Wegman offered more excuses for the “sit and stare” policy. She told 13WHAM.com that the district does not have the right, nor the staff and space, to provide an alternative setting for opt-out students during test days, which are set to occur this month.
That seems like a flimsy excuse to us. Most districts have a small army of aides and office employees who could monitor the opt-out students. And if they don’t have the manpower, why can’t Wegman and other K-12 leaders get some parent volunteers to help out for a few hours during test days?
As for the space limitations – it seems most schools could find some space in the cafeteria, library and gymnasium to accommodate the students who aren’t taking the test.
Leaders in “sit and stare” schools aren’t showing much imagination in this process because their goal isn’t to solve the problem. Rather, it’s to punish the children of uncooperative (and free thinking) parents.
That’s reprehensible and parents and taxpayers should pressure their elected school board members to take corrective action against any school employee who would use such tactics.