The Opt-Out movement received more national attention this week, as Newsweek detailed some of the reasons why protests have multiplied since last year. Opposition is continuing to mount against the Common Core, and parents, students and teachers are disgusted with the growing synergy between the federal government and corporate interests. As political leaders are standing with the Common Core, millions of citizens are disregarding their support and joining the Opt-Out movement. Let’s take a look at what Newsweek had to say:
“Opt Out,” a civil disobedience movement against state-mandated testing in elementary and secondary education, is growing rapidly across the United States. Last year, Opt Out protests occurred in about half the states. This year, the movement has found support across all 50 states.
In New York alone, the number of students opting out has more than tripled this year. Nearly 200,000 students—more than 15 percent of those in the state—opted out this spring.
While Opt Out protests are aimed at several test-related issues, they have been ignited mainly by the Common Core standards, a set of reforms to establish nationwide academic standards and tests.
For the past 25 years, my research has focused on testing policies. Over the last four years, along with my research team, I have intensely researched the Common Core standards, interviewed several leaders, scrutinized the reform’s funding and assembled a database of responses to the reform across 10 diverse states.
What Happens on the Day of the Test?
Opt Out protests can take many forms. At times, teachers take the initiative and refuse to give the test; at others, it is the parents who decide to exempt their children. Sometimes, students themselves decide to boycott.
For instance, at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, protesting parents and students acting on their own opted out. So the entire 11th grade class didn’t show up on the testing day.
On the other hand, in Washington, Florida and Oklahoma, although very disparate states, teachers acting alone or with union support refused to administer the tests.
In some cases, school policy has required parents to send their children to school, but instead of taking the tests, they are made to “sit and stare”—that is, do nothing while their classmates toil away on the tests.
This is utterly ridiculous, as no student should be forced to attend school while others are taking a test that they are not participating in. Consider that the sour taste that our children are learning to associate with the their scholastic experience, thanks to tests like the Common Core, is going to adversely affect their perception of education for decades to come.
Some critics claim that Opt Out has been largely driven by teachers unions angered by policymakers’ efforts to undermine teacher tenure and collective bargaining.
Union activity has played a role in Opt Out. However, our database indicates such protests have occurred in states with or without strong teachers unions. For example, despite a weak teachers union in Florida, Opt Out actions there are among the strongest in the nation.
Down here in South Florida the opt-out movement is active and parents are especially pissed off. At my local elementary school, I have spoken informally with parents and find that they strong majority of them are vehemently opposed to the Common Core. This isn’t due to union rhetoric. The teachers union down here in Palm Beach County is toothless and pathetic. They can’t secure their teachers a decent raise each year, much less influence parental decisions toward testing.
In fact, opposition to the Common Core and its testing is broad-based. National poll data show 60 percent of the public does not support the reform.
This will prove to be the ultimate undoing of the Common Core. These tests are now opposed by the majority of the public. While it may take some time to fully mobilize the majority against the test, eventually our lawmakers will be forced to reckon with the fact that most people in the United States oppose the Common Core. They will either choose to stand with us and eliminate these tests, or they will be summarily swept out of office.