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“Sit and stare” policy creates controversy
Marion, N.Y. -- The Common Core tests are no stranger to controversy, but now the controversy revolves around how some school districts are handling those opting out of the testing.
Some parents opting out their children from the tests are being told the students will have to sit at their desks without any other reading or work materials, while all the students around them take the 60- to 90-minute exams.
Kimberly Salisbury does not agree with the Common Core testing, but said she was surprised to learn her daughter, who attends Marion Elementary School, would have to sit, stare and not be able to do anything else while the testing was underway.
"I've been going back and forth with the school principal," she said. "Basically, she told me my daughter will have to sit in her classroom for the remainder of the test."
According to the New York State United Teachers Union (NYSUT), at least 15 other school districts in the state are choosing the sit-and-stare policy for students opting out of the test.
Most of the Western New York school districts contacted by 13WHAM News do not use the sit-and-stare policy.
"We can have kids sit and do nothing, or we can have them be productive by doing something in a separate area," said William Cala, interim superintendent at the Fairport Central School District. (Sit-and-stare) doesn't seem to make any sense to us."
Kathryn Wegman, superintendent of the Marion Central School District, defended the school district's policy in an emailed statement to 13WHAM.
There is no provision under the law for a parent to opt his or her child out of New York state assessments.
Districts have no authority to allow students to opt-out of such State testing, the statement read. Similarly, the State Education Department regulations and guidance do not provide an alternative setting or activity for those students who might refuse to take a test. The District does not have the right, nor the staff and space to provide an alternative setting.
Wegman added the district is allowing parents to take their kids out of school for the day, but Salisbury said that's not an option for parents with jobs.
Most recently, the New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi came out against the sit and stare policy.
This policy aimed at students whose parents elect to opt out their children from state standardized testing in unconscionable, he wrote in a statement. 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.
The Common Core testing will continue throughout the week.