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‘Sit and stare’ policy is punitive, nonsensical

As a former educator, I’ve been following the debate on state testing with great interest, particularly the issue of what to do with students who opt out of the exams. Since apparently not taking the tests is an option, despite the state’s statements to the contrary, the leaders of the various school districts have a moral and ethical obligation to provide an alternative educational experience for those students while they are in school.

I spent 29 years teaching in the Williamsville Central School District, and I am appalled that the present superintendent of what has always been an outstanding district would not understand this. His question of what should happen if children are allowed to opt out of tests: “Should they then be allowed to opt out of homework and Friday quizzes, and book reports?” is beyond ludicrous. There is absolutely no connection or similarity whatsoever between these state tests and teacher-generated evaluative material that is part of a class, which can be reviewed with the students, and which can therefore be used to help students learn. Since teachers, students, and parents never get to review them, these tests really don’t have any educational value. So are they given just so the state can make the specious claim that it’s tracking the students’ progress?

It would seem to me that having students who opt out just “sit and stare” during these tests is punitive at best, and is abusive at worst. What possible purpose can this policy have other than to make things so miserable for the students opting out that the parents will be coerced into having the students take the test? Shame on those administrators who follow this punitive policy. I would not want them making decisions about my children’s or grandchildren’s educational welfare.

Chuck Godfrey

Cheektowaga