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Opt-in or Opt-out, that is the question

You may have heard of the opt-out movement, but now there’s a group of people promoting the opposite. They want your student to take the New York State Assessment Test.

Sebrone Johnson is a parent of a student at Rochester City School District and he’s encouraging parents to say yes to the test.

“As a parent, my greatest concern is that my son is college ready and career ready,” Johnson said. "I want to make sure that my son is learning what others around the city, around the state, around the country are learning, and the only way to do that is through standardized testing.”

However all parents don’t agree with Johnson. Some pushing the opt-out movement argue standardized tests aren’t a valuable measure tool and are overwhelming.

Susan Brown with the Genesee Valley Parent Teacher Association says these tests have a detrimental effect on children.

"Kids are overstressed by them, we have children in younger and younger groups having panic attacks,” Brown said.

Parents like Eileen Graham agree. She removed her daughter from public schools because of the anxiety surrounding the tests. She says students are already tested enough and this one isn’t necessary.

"There's no benefit to this high stakes testing, we have NWEA we have benchmark exams,” Graham said.

Even with the high pressure and high stakes, Stephen Sigmund of Higher Achievement New York says the majority of students are taking the exams.

“Across the state 1 in 5 opt-out and 80 percent take the test,” Sigmund said. “Here in Rochester, it was closer to 90 percent.”

Sigmund says after complaints from parents across the state the test have been tweaked. He says it gauges how much students need to learn to reach the next level.

“The movement for high achievement started with university professors, administrators, employers saying they were not getting qualified graduates and candidates who are ready for the 21st century,” Sigmund said.

That’s the reason parents like Johnson are working within their communities to gather support for the ‘Yes to the Test’ campaign. Sigmund’s organization, High Achievement New York, is on a tour across the state also running radio and TV ads encouraging parents to get on board with the state assessments.

“Our attempt to really bring voice to the opt-in movement, yes to the test is really our way of investing in our young people,” Johnson said.

Students in grades 3rd through 8th take the English/language arts test next week. Those students will take math in May.

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