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NY Students Begin 3-Day Common Core English Assessments

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Parents across New York on Tuesday were protesting the statewide Common Core tests by having their children opt out of the exams despite a new state law that essentially renders the assessments moot for students.

Students in third through eighth grades started on the tests Tuesday, beginning with the English language arts assessments. They are spending a little less than 1 1/2 hours a day testing for three consecutive days, finishing Thursday.

On Long Island, some estimates put the number of test refusals at more than 12,000 students, CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

Parents at one school district told Gusoff they are fuming after what they said their children who refused to take the tests were forced to do during test time.

Seventh-grader Kaylee Paperin was signed out of school for 90 minutes while her schoolmates took the test. Her mother said she didn't want her to sit and stare while others took the test.

"She was going to have to sit in the classroom and just do nothing at the desk. And I thought that was ridiculous," said East Meadow parent Dawn Paperin.

It's not an official school policy, but it is what some parents in the East Meadow School District say happens when they opt out of state testing: students sit and stare, not allowed to read a book or leave the testing room.

"It's completely ludicrous you're wasting valuable learning time for my child when he can be reading something," said East Meadow parent Rachel Amodeo.

In the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, 10 percent of students opted out on this first day of testing, Gusoff reported.

More than 60 percent of the children at Comsewogue School District in Port Jefferson Station.

Those who refused were given space in classrooms and auditoriums with teacher supervision.

In East Meadow, the school district said "students who desire reading materials may read their tests or put their head down and rest."

East Meadow parents said their protests have gotten them no where.

"There has been no response. I've sent countless emails, letters. I've started a petition fighting against the sit-and-stare," said parent Alicia Piazza-Coffey.

East Meadow school officials told CBS 2 students who opted out will not be penalized for lost time or have to sit for make-up tests.

NY Students Begin 3-Day Common Core English Assessments

This is the second year that the assessments will be based on the Common Core Learning Standards adopted by most states based on a curriculum with tougher standards and increased testing linked to teacher evaluations.

The tests have been criticized by some parents who say the rollout was rushed and that the new standards put too much emphasis on testing.

"By making everything about this test, they're sacrificing real learning to prepare for this test and to me, that's not education," said P.S. 69 parent Danny Katch.

"A simple basic math problem that used to be solved traditionally in maybe one or two steps is now solved in up to 120 steps," said parent Danielle Flora.

As the tests have gotten more difficult, the stakes have gotten higher. New York now requires that annual teacher evaluations take into account student performance on the assessments.

"They're also being used to evaluate teachers, to give school grades, to base principal salaries," said New York City Council Education Committee Chairman Daniel Dromm, D-Queens. "Test scores were never meant to be used in that way. It's a violation of educational standards to do that."

Some educators also claim they weren't given sufficient material and guidance to teach the new standards.

"This madness with testing must stop," said Dromm.

But supporters say the goal is to teach kids to reason and not just memorize.

NY Students Begin 3-Day Common Core English Assessments

"We are absolutely committed to the Common Core," said New York State Education Commissioner John King Jr. "We see that Common Core is a path to make sure more of our students are college and career ready."

Under the budget passed Monday night, scores on Common Core-aligned tests for students from third to eighth grade would remain off their transcripts through 2018. School districts would be prevented from using the scores as the sole way for determining student placement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said parents and students should be relieved knowing that the second round of Common Core-aligned test scores will not be included on students' permanent transcripts under the new budget deal. He agreed the rollout of the Common Core assessments has been flawed and has caused anxiety for students and teachers.

"You don't want the students to feel inadequate, and that's what they were doing," the governor told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall. "Because they were literally not prepared to be tested on this material."

NY Students Begin 3-Day Common Core English Assessments

When asked if students should not be taking the test at all now if it does not count, Cuomo responded: "It is the right curriculum. They're going to learn this curriculum over the coming years. But it was a little bit too much, too fast."

The budget bill also places limits on sharing student data from the tests. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said he was pleased that the agreement "protects student privacy."

The state received nearly $700 million in federal Race to the Top grants for implementing the curriculum rollout in 2010. The statewide math assessments are scheduled for April 30 through May 2.

Legally, parents can opt their children out of taking the tests.

Westchester County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said he is pulling his own children from this week's tests, claiming the new academic standards are turning children into guinea pigs.

In a video posted on his campaign website, Astorino blasted what he called "Cuomo's Common Core," even though it is used in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

"Cuomo's Common Core is a disaster in the making," he said. "No K-12 teachers were involved in developing its standards, yet our schools are being turned on their heads to force the experimental program to become the new curriculum."

The U.S. Department of Education is telling students that opting out could hurt a school's ability to meet the 95-percent test-preparation rate required by law.

A spokesman for the New York State Department of Education said they do not yet know how many students refused to take the test, but state officials said more than 1 million students opted in Tuesday.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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