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In the growing uproar over student testing, the Springville-Griffith School District might be considered ground zero.

Last year, the district had 139 students in third through eighth grades opt out of the standardized testing, the highest number in the region, Superintendent Paul Connelly said at last week’s board meeting.

Now, only a few days into the new school year, he’s already received letters from parents saying that their children will not be part of any assessment testing.

One of those letters came from resident Chris Cerrone, a father of two who’s also a teacher in the Hamburg Central School District. A proponent of the “opt-out movement” and an outspoken critic of state and even in-house assessment testing, Cerrone said he doesn’t need formalized tests to know how his students are performing. Instead, he said, he uses his professional training and experience to gauge their progress.

Connelly said he understands some of the frustration, but insists that assessment testing is a natural and long-standing part of education. He worries that parents are confusing the district’s own assessments – some as brief as three minutes, and which have occurred three times a year for almost a decade – with the larger, more cumbersome state tests.

“We’ve got to be able to monitor the progress of our children. We have to have some kind of assessment to know we’re going in the right direction,” the superintendent said.

JoAnn DePue, director of technology, data and assessment, said statistics from last year prove just that. English mastery in third through eighth grades increased anywhere between 1 and 10 percentage points and the high school graduation rate jumped from 86.7 percent to 94.8 in 2013.

“Testing is an opportunity for students to show us they’re learning. We need to celebrate what we do, show kids they’re learning and celebrate their success,” DePue said.

But board member Kara Kane, a consistent critic of state testing, said it didn’t matter if the district’s own assessments are being unfairly targeted along with the state tests.

“From my perspective, I think parents are trying to throw a kink in the works to slow things down,” Kane said.

She handed out lime green shoe laces – a symbol chosen, Kane said, by those embracing the growing movement to change education and curtail testing – and encouraged board members to wear them.