Parents protest school’s so-called “sit and stare” policy


WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – Parents gathered in front of Williamsville North High School on Monday in protest of the so-called “sit and stare” practice for students who opt-out of standardized testing.

Monday’s protest was timed to take place before the day millions of students across New York State are expected to take a standardized English test that spans three days.

Williamsville schools’ policy is for students who have been opted-out of taking standardized tests by their parents must sit quietly in the classroom while their peers take the examinations. Parents argue that their children should be allowed to read during the tests instead of being forced to “sit and stare” while the tests are proctored by teachers.

“All I’m simply asking is for my child to be able to read in school and seemingly nobody cares,” said Dawn Merritt, a parent.  Another parent, Wendy Dellaneve, added, “That’s disheartening to take away reading from a child, when at this age, something like that is so important.”

“I care about children and it wasn’t about the kids anymore. It was about teacher, test scores and data,” said Kathleen Knauth who was a principal at Hillview Elementary in Lancaster who said Common Core testing forced her into early retirement, “We were always evaluating. We know where the children are at, the teachers know that. We don’t need a standardized test for it.

Melissa Rakvica is a Williamsville parent and former teacher who believes elementary students shouldn’t be tested at all.  “There are better things for students to do besides sitting and prepping all year for tests that aren’t developmentally appropriate,” she argued.

New York gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino agrees with Rakvica’s views and will be joining many parents in their protest of Common Core standards.

“I’m announcing today that my children will join with thousands of other school kids tomorrow statewide in refusing to take the Cuomo Common Core tests,” Astorino said on Monday.

Bob Bennett of the NY Board of Regents defended the Common Core standards and standardized testing like those that will be given statewide this week.  “I certainly don’t disrespect any parent in terms of their decisions, although I’m not sure the rationale behind not taking a test that doesn’t determine your next grade level,” Bennett said.

In her effort to eliminate the “sit and stare” policy during testing, Merritt filed an appeal with the Williamsville Board of Education.

“Across the board, we’re denying all stays. I’m not getting due process and I’m not getting the respect as a parent,” Merritt said. “My child will go to school with his Bible and let them try to take the Bible away from him.”

Following the protest on Monday, Williamsville School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Martzloff released this statement:

“I respect the decision of a parent to refuse to have their children take the New York State assessments. However, as the Superintendent, it is my job to administer the tests on behalf of the state and to define the response of the District to those parents who have chosen to exclude their children from the exams. I want all parents to know that we treat our students with care and compassion, and that will certainly be the case during the administration of these assessments. If a student refuses to take the test, he or she can spend the time reading through the test quietly for an hour while their classmates are taking the assessments.”

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