Dr. Brown

Ithaca, N.Y. — Joining a state-wide trend, an unprecedented number of students at the Ithaca City School District refused to take Common Core assessment examinations Tuesday morning.

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The participation rate for students grades from 3rd to 8th grade fell to 85 percent, according to ICSD Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown. Schools are required to be at a participation rate of 95 percent.

This year, however, New York State’s opt-out movement gained momentum in galvanizing parents to have children refuse to take the tests. Some schools across the state saw refusals jump by more than 600 percent, according to Syracuse.com.

In Ithaca, participation rates were at 95 percent or above the year before. It’s not clear what will happen after the fall this year to 10 percentage points below the mandate.

“That’s the big question throughout the state: What happens?,” Brown said.

“We’ve all been notified by the state ed that everything from Title I funding to state aid funding could be in jeopardy.”

Dr. Brown

Brown said that the topic was discussed at last night’s meeting of the ICSD board of education. He noted that despite very high graduation rates and test scores, ICSD could be hurt by the test refusals.

“We’re very high achieving: This has become a very politically charged conversation, and, unfortunately, that is going to have some unintended and intended consequences,” he said.

Previously, Brown has criticized “the emphasis being placed on state testing by the Governor and NYS Legislature when making judgments about student and teacher performance.”

See related: Officials at Ithaca, Groton schools issue critical statements on state tests

Syracuse.com reported that the participation rates appear to have varied greatly, from around 50 percent refusal rates in some parts of Buffalo to 11 percent in some parts of Albany.

“Districts are generally reporting a rise in the number of students refusing to take the exams, according to news reports across the state,” Syracuse.com said. “In a few cases, the opt out rates are passing 50 percent of the students who are supposed to take the exams. In other areas, the opt out rates vary greatly.”

Brown agreed that ICSD was hardly alone in seeing participation rates fall below the mandated percentages.

“Everyone is seeing unprecedented test refusals this year throughout the state,” he said. “…We’re all in the same boat and dealing with something we haven’t had to deal with before.”

See related: Looking carefully at ‘Opt-Out’ movement as Ithaca debates testing issue

See related: Ithaca Teachers’ Association issues statement on ‘Opt-Out’ movement


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.