The New York Times posted detailed maps showing how the opt-out movement has grown, year over year by each school district. They reveals a massive increase in the percentage of students who did not take the Common Core-inspired standardized tests from 2013 through to 2015. In many districts, more than half of the students did not sit for their exams. A few districts saw more than 80% fail to take their tests. Those who have downplayed the impact of the opt-out movement in New York will choke on these numbers.
BOICEVILLE, N.Y. — It started with a speech in the fall, to parents who had gathered in the auditorium to learn what to expect during the nascent school year.
“I spoke at the open house and said, ‘We hope you’ll opt out of the tests,’ ” said Heather Roberts, vice president of the Bennett Intermediate School parent teacher association. Last year, 92 percent of eligible students in the Catskill Mountains district that includes Boiceville took their standardized English tests. “Jaws dropped.”
Soon there were forums, T-shirts with snappy slogans and fliers translated into Spanish. During pickups and play dates, in classrooms and at lunch, parents and students would ask one another: “Are you opting out?”
By the first day of testing in April, two of every three students in the district who were expected to take the exams were refusing to lift their pencils.
The majority of students who did not sit for their exams were from the middle class. Of course, the tired rhetoric of how this hurts the underprivileged and lower-class districts is being thrown around to guilt parents into sending their kids to school. We heard this earlier this week when students in the upper-class cities of California opted-out en masse.
Parents will do what’s best for their own kids, no matter the impact to students from a different economic class. Some parents still haven’t forgotten Arne Duncan’s inflammatory quote about “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” Well, now those same white suburban moms are flipping the Secretary of Education the bird.
At the same time, some education officials and advocacy groups fear the opt-out movement will reverse a long-term effort to identify teachers and schools — and students — who are not up to par, at least as far as their test performance goes. Of particular concern is that without reliable, consistent data, children in minority communities may be left to drift through schools that fail them, without consequences.
This month, a dozen civil rights groups, including the N.A.A.C.P. and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released a statementsaying they were opposed to “anti-testing efforts” because tests provide data crucial for catching and combating inequities in public schools.
“When parents ‘opt out’ of tests — even when out of protest for legitimate concerns — they’re not only making a choice for their own child, they’re inadvertently making a choice to undermine efforts to improve schools for every child,” the statement said.
Middle class parents won’t care, nor should they. They are sick of tests taking too much time out of their students lives. They are disgusted with data-mining that is putting their children’s basic information in the wrong hands. And most of them want to stick it to Bill Gates and Arne Duncan. The NAACP’s pleas will fall on unsympathetic ears.
In New York State, a potent cocktail of union and parent activism fueled the growth of the anti-testing movement, which was essentially nonexistent just two years ago.
Karen E. Magee, president of the New York State United Teachers union, expressly urged parents this year to skip the tests, to subvert the new teacher evaluations. A surge of activity on social media, especially Facebook, helped show parents a way to protest if they believed their school system overemphasized testing.
“We’ve written letters to legislators for years, until we were blue in the face, and they didn’t listen,” said Eric Mihelbergel, a founding member of New York State Allies for Public Education, a test-refusal group. “But they’re listening now, now that we’re opting our kids out.”
When parents concerns are not addressed, expecting them to sit there and seethe is utterly foolish. They are giving the Common Core the thumbs down by keeping their children from taking the test. During the next round of elections, expect parents (especially in New York) to give the thumbs down to politicians who are foolish enough to support the Common Core.