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Opt-out debate flares in Port Byron ahead of next week’s state tests

As students are set to take standardized assessments across the state next week, the president of the Port Byron Teachers Association is criticizing her district for a plan to get more students to take the tests.

The district, which had the second highest opt-out rate out of the nine Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES component districts last year, is allowing junior high students who take the tests to be exempt from finals at the end of the year. At the elementary level, the plan is to have students who opt out of the state tests take an alternative test.

In a March 8 newsletter from the Port Byron Central School District, Mike Jorgensen, principal of the district’s Dana L. West Junior-Senior High School, addressed the annual state math and English language arts assessments for eligible third-grade through eighth-grade students.

“This year, all junior high school students who participate, with effort, on the NYS ELA, Math, and Science (eighth grade only) will be exempt from taking their local final exams (ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies),” the newsletter said. “Their performance on the state assessment will not impact their overall grade in a class. Their final quarter average will be based on the same types of assignments they were graded on during the first three marking periods.”

A March 22 newsletter also talked about the tests, saying the tests allow for indicating how well students are “mastering the learning standards that guide classroom instruction” in the district’s elementary school.

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