This article first appeared in Newsday by Candice Ferrette
Opponents of Common Core testing plan an “Opt Out, Shop Out” at Roosevelt Field Mall on Saturday morning to encourage boycotts of state standardized tests being given in April to students in grades three through eight.
Participants in the event, which is not sanctioned by the Garden City mall, are supposed to wear T-shirts bearing the words “Opt Out” while shopping, according to fliers distributed by the advocates and teachers unions. The fliers said the event will occur from 10 a.m. to noon.
“It’s about making sure parents understand that we are still in this right now, and it’s still very important to show solidarity in this movement,” said Jeanette Deutermann of North Bellmore, founder of Long Island Opt Out, a grassroots network of parents and educators that has spearheaded calls for reform. “Opting out is the only way we will continue to see changes.”
Deutermann said members of the group will walk around and go about regular activities. They do not intend to gather in one area of the mall, and they will not distribute leaflets, she said.
A spokeswoman for Roosevelt Field Mall said its owners, Simon Property Group, declined to comment.
“Opt Out, Shop Out” is one of 13 scheduled events from late February through the beginning of April — many styled as community forums — to promote the test refusals.
During last spring’s testing, more than 200,000 students statewide opted out of the exams, including more than 60,000 students on Long Island. It was the largest such test boycott in the nation’s history.
This year, the state English language arts test for grades three through eight is being given April 5-7, while the math test will be administered April 13-15.
A major point of contention has been linkage of student test scores to teacher performance evaluations. Under state law revised last April, up to 50 percent of teacher job ratings was to be based on students’ scores.
In December, however, the state Board of Regents approved a four-year moratorium on consequences for principals and teachers related to student test scores. In addition, state education officials are evaluating the Common Core learning standards and have shortened the length of the tests.
Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, since taking office in July, has heard the concerns of parents, teachers, students, school administrators, union leaders, and community and business leaders, spokesman Jonathan Burman said in a statement. He did not comment on Saturday’s event.
John Caulfield, president of Levittown United Teachers, a union with about 845 members, said he will be there and he expects a good turnout of parents and teachers.
“Nothing has changed and we have to continue the momentum,” said Caulfield, whose three children have opted out of the tests. “Enough people are passionate about it so I think we’ll get a decent turnout.”
Carl Korn, spokesman for New York State United Teachers, said local chapters are autonomous and decide their own courses of action on all sorts of issues.
“The decision whether to opt-in or opt-out is an incredibly personal decision,” Korn said. “When parents make decisions in the best interests of their children, NYSUT is going to support that decision 100 percent of the time.”
Deutermann said her group has asked every teachers association on Long Island to promote the event. She said forums this month are co-sponsored by the unions, “which is really great and shows that the parents and the teachers are in this together.”
“We want to make sure that the testing system is disrupted enough so change has to continue,” Deutermann said.