Despite Efforts to Mollify Parents, Opt-Out Numbers Remain High and are Likely to Stay That Way

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Last Spring, over 225,000 parents across the state, rejected New York State’s test-and-punish education system. 

Total numbers are inconclusive because some districts used specious reporting procedures.  However, minimum totals have the opt-outs at close to 20% with tens of thousands of parents refusing the tests for the first time in 2017.

These results have occurred despite attempts by the state education department (NYSED) and local districts to curtail the opt-out movement with misleading information about so-called “reforms” to curriculum and test design and threats of dire consequences to districts for not maintaining minimum participation levels.

Of course, the facts remain that the state ELA and Math tests are still based on a flawed Common Core curriculum and contain questions that were not created by educators and are not developmentally appropriate for the students to whom the exams are administered.  And while threats of punitive measures have been tossed about for districts who do not maintain a 95% participation rate, the fact is that only 8% of public school districts met that participation threshold, and none of the ones who didn’t were penalized in any way.

In a Press Release put out by the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), Long Island Opt Out Founder and NYSAPE member, Jeanette Deutermann, said, “While State education officials and corporate-reform lobbyist interests debate and interpret the assessment results and opt out numbers using the usual rhetoric, we see parents from all school districts including first-time refusers, overwhelmingly rejecting this test and punish system. Not only have they chosen to protect their children, but they have also joined our community of parents committed to advocating for whole-child policies in our classrooms. This network of hundreds of thousands of advocates will continue to grow and develop strategies to fight against those who wish to profit from our children.”

NYSAPE and other supporters of Opt Out do applaud NYSED and the Board of Regents for reducing the number testing days for the state exams from 6 to 4.  However, they also note that significant problems with the tests still remain.  These problems include:

  • An untimed testing mandate that results in some students having to sit for up to 6 hours to complete a day of testing.
  • Tests that are still based on flawed Common Core curriculum.  So-called Next Generation Learning Standards are simply rebranded Common Core with slight modifications and state tests still use these flawed curriculum and standards.
  • Plans remain to reintroduce measures to use state test results towards student’s permanent records and, in some cases, to deny students promotion to the next grade level based on poor grades or parent opt out choices.
  • Plans remain to reintroduce measures to use state test results as a means for evaluating teacher performance which will lead to a repeat of the litigation of the Lederman case wherein a judge found evaluation rubrics used by the state education department to be fatally flawed.

Explaining her reasoning for continuing to support Opt Out, Long Island public school parent, educator and Executive Director of BATs (Bad Ass Teachers), Marla Kilfoyle wrote on the BAT website, “NYSED continues to ignore best practices for children and New York State Schools.  NYSED has a long way to go to regain the trust of parents and educators in New York State. Opt Out is remaining steady and is adding thousands of new parents each year.”

One thing is clear, simple rebranding and tweaks to a flawed system has done and will do little to address the concerns of parents and educators about corporate driven reforms to public education.  Those in the know on the grass roots level are way too smart and way too determined to be fooled and fully plan to continue their successful and powerful activism until true and meaningful reform comes to the public schools of the state of New York.

Parents and educators interested in learning more about the efforts of Opt Out groups such as the New York State Allies for Public Education can visit their website.

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