Opt-Out Movement in Full Force

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

As the school calendar turns to spring, attention turns to the mandated state testing for students in grades 3 through 8.

As they have done for the past few years, in earnest, supporters of a parent’s right to opt their children out of these state tests are continuing their campaign to educate parents on the issues that exist concerning the creation, administration and evaluation of the exams.

The New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) is an organization started in 2013 to support public education and oppose the current excessive testing mandates and collection of private student data.

On the NYSAPE website, the organization lays out clearly the reasons why it will continue to encourage parents to exercise their opt-out rights.  Some of the points raised by NYSAPE include:

  • State tests continue to use developmentally inappropriate content.
  • State tests continue to be derived from Common Core based education standards that have been widely criticized and were left virtually unchanged in the review of state standards conducted last year.
  • Excessive focus on testing in general continues to narrow the curriculum of students and diminishes untested subjects such as art and music.
  • The “untimed” testing policy implemented last year by the state education department lacks any research to support the notion that it improves student performance.  In some cases, the policy extends the length of the test to an amount considered cruel by some education experts and psychologists.
  • Both the ELA and Math exams still take at least 3 days each despite a recommendation from the Governor’s Common Core Task Force to reduce them to two days for each exam.
  • State tests are still being used in teacher evaluations.  Despite widespread controversy against the practice, state test scores are still being tabulated.  In two years’ time, the scores on state tests will once again be “counted” towards a teacher’s evaluation using the same value added model system that last year was judged to be invalid in a court of law.
  • The moratorium on using student test scores for promotion and placement will end in 2018.  At that time state tests will once again show up on student transcripts and play a role in determining student grade promotions.
  • New York State schools continue to be poorly funded and state test scores reflect as much as anything this lack of availability of adequate resources, particularly in districts with a low family income.  Implementation of the tests amounts to an unfunded mandate for public schools that are already strapped with financial problems.
  • Public Schools are under attack from corporate interests.  So-called “reformers,” often use state test scores as a justification for taking over schools in poorer districts and/or for creating charter schools that only siphon away needed funds that could help schools address any problems they might have.

For these reasons, and many others, public education leaders are strongly recommending that parents educate themselves and exercise their right to opt their children out of state exams until such time as the issues with the exams are addressed.  The LUT stands in full support of a parent’s right to choose and the effort to reform state tests to meet the educational needs of our children.

A sample copy of a letter parents can use to opt-out their children can be found on the NYSAPE website.

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