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Parents, Schools Locked In Battle Over Those Opting Out Of Standardized Tests

LEVITTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – More than a million students took out their No. 2 pencils Tuesday, as Common Core standardized testing began for children between grades three through eight in New York state.

But as CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, tens of thousands of students opted out of the English-language arts testing. Indeed, test day was "read a book" day for many at Lindenhurst Middle School on Long Island, as parents opted their children out of the federally-mandated tests.

"What are the kids getting out of this?" one man said. "They're getting a number."

That left kids like Cal among only a handful in his class to take the 90-minute English assessment. He said only about nine other students were taking the test with him, and everyone else opted out.

"Mostly, like no one took the test," one girl added. "The whole auditorium and the cafeteria auditorium were full."

Parents, Schools Locked In Battle Over Those 'Opting Out' Of Standardized Tests

Meanwhile all across the state, refusers blasted their message denouncing the tests on cars and lawn signs.

"I don't believe that they're appropriate," said Elaine Coleman of Yonkers. "I don't believe that our children should be used and abused."

"The kids are in a complete state of stress and anxiety over how they will do on this," said parent Jeanette Deutermann, the founder of Long Island Opt Out. "They know a lot is riding on this test."

Mother Michelle Kupper opted her daughter out of the exams in Brooklyn.

"Enough with the test prep, enough with the hours and hours of testing, enough with evaluating teachers in this one-dimensional and invalid way," Kupper said. "Enough with taking away meaningful learning and instruction for our kids, enough with raising the stakes without fully funding our schools."

Some parents complain the tests are too grueling and causing anxiety.

The New York State United Teachers union has also called for a boycott over concerns that test scores will be linked to teacher evaluations. The Legislature recently approved a stricter teacher evaluation system in which test scores can account for 50 percent of the performance reviews.

"I think that's good because it makes them accountable for the material and how students are maintaining the information," Levittown parent Jane Waldman said.

Others believe common core testing is a setup for schools to fail and be replaced with charters.

"To dismantle public education as we know it for our children," said Tory Vine of Lindenhurst, adding that she believes it is all motivated by "money; corporate greed."

The group New York Allies for Public Education said their goal this year is for 250,000 students to sit on the sidelines, 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reported.

Parents, Schools Locked In Battle Over Those 'Opting Out' Of Standardized Tests

In all, parents of 60,000 New York students opted out of federally-mandated testing last year to send a message, Gusoff reported.

But across the state, the vast majority opted in for the tests. Parents who had their kids take the test on Long Island shied away from CBS2's cameras, not wanting to offend teachers.

But Denise Navarro, a mother of four, believes taking the test teaches its own lesson.

"You can't opt out of life, and tests are part of life," Navarro said. "I don't want to give them that sense that they can just say, 'I don't want to do it,' and not do it."

Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, said the tests are necessary.

"This is an indicator of how they are doing compared to other students, how they are doing really in comparison to themselves," she said. "These tests show us students' growth from year to year."

A spokesman for the New York State Department of Education said: ""We lose the chance -- at both the state and the local level -- to learn about the progress of our students and their schools. That loss is immediate and it is permanent."

The state's stance is that every parent should know if a child is on track for fifth grade, high school graduation, and college – and how a child measures up to other children.

Under federal regulations, if a school has less than 95 percent participation in testing, it could lose federal funds, though officials say that hasn't happened yet.

Because of the controversy, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, (R-N.Y.), has proposed a bill to scale back the number of standardized tests kids are required to take.

Testing continues over five more days. Math will begin next week.

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