The opt out movement is gaining momentum as more parents are opting their students out of standardized testing.
Here are a few actions that are occurring across the country made up of many voices.
More than 6,000 students in the public schools of Long Island have opted out of the New York State testing program that began on April 1, 2014. The exams, called the ELA tests, are part of New York’s launch of the Common Core. The Common Core has become so controversial now that the actual testing programs are in place in most states that several states are trying to “rebrand” it, with Florida and Arizona giving the testing associated with Common Core new names. The New York tests this year require four hours of “reading” and four hours of “math.”
The number is at least 6,000. The Long Island students opted out of the “reading” portion of the tests, according to Newsday. “Forty-one school districts in Nassau and Suffolk [counties], in response to a Newsday request sent to 124 districts island-wide, said about 5,575 students refused to take the test,” Newsday reported. “An additional district lumped together 224 refusals and absences. Other districts did not respond.” New York newspapers have generally been reporting Opt Out news more accurately and in a more balanced way than Chicago corporate news media, which have been dominated by corporate apologetics.
No Chicago newspaper has dared to try and gather local opt out information independently of the official CPS data, which have been lowered due to massive pressure on inner city schools to reduce the opt out numbers in Chicago’s most recent Opt Out, which was directed against the ISAT testing program held in March 2014. Chicago news media have barely reported on the massive bullying of children and teachers under the administration of Barbara Byrd Bennett as CPS had tried to reduce the recent Opt Out numbers in the nation’s third largest school system.
The Common Core tests in New York are typical of the problems with all corporate high-stakes so-called “standardized” tests.
“When the scores are reported, the students have a different teacher,” critic Diane Ravitch reports on her blog on April 2, 2014. “The scores are not broken down to show what students’ strengths and weaknesses are. That means they have no diagnostic value at all. Teachers learn nothing about the students except their scores. The tests offer no clue about how teachers can help their students… The only beneficiaries are the testing corporations, the vendors of software and hardware, whose equipment is required…”
From the Epoch Times:
Last week was quite different for Lila, 9, compared to most children her age in New York. She didn’t take the English language arts test administered to more than a million students across the state
Her father, Danny Katch, plans to opt Lila out of the upcoming math test too. He disagrees with how test scores are used for important decisions about students, teachers, and schools.
Annual standardized tests are required at all public schools starting in third grade. With introduction of the Common Core, a set of standards aimed at improving college and career readiness, the tests became harder and drew criticism from parents.
The opt-out movement is nothing new. Last year, several hundred students opted out from standardized tests in New York City and several thousand in the state. But a question mark remained over the scope of the movement, since both the city and the state did not disclose the exact numbers.
This year more than 33,000 students opted out of the test, according to a survey released Sunday by the New York State Allies for Public Education, a group of parents and education advocates promoting opt outs.
To see the compilation list of students who opted out go to NYS Allies for Public Education.
Also on the New York State Allies for Public Education website is the “Refusing The Test” Resources: Opting Out in Grades 3-8. A good go-to guide that can be used as a guideline in other states and districts.
Pushback against the “Sit and Stare” policy in New York
When some administrative staff in the New York schools forced students who had opted out of the tests to sit in the rooms where the exams were being administered or in separate rooms and remain silent throughout the testing period, the following press release was issued by New York State Allies for Public Education:
The leaders of the NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of more than 45 parent and educator groups from throughout the state, expressed that a significant number of parents in NYS may file formal “bullying and harassment” reports against a small number of school districts that may enforce policies which force innocent children to sit in silence for long periods of time with nothing to do for several days in a row if the child’s parent refuses to allow the child to participate in very controversial NYS testing.
In child care settings for school-age children this type of punishment could be considered corporal punishment by forcing “prolonged lack of movement or motion” and could be a violation of regulations under NYS Social Services Law section 309, part 414.9(e). These child care regulations also state, under part 414.9(b), that “Any discipline used must relate to the child’s action.” Punishing a child for following the direction of parents does not relate to the action of the child in any way.
Under the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), Article 2, Section 11, Part 7(a), harassment and bullying are defined as the creation of a hostile environment that would interfere with a student’s mental or emotional well-being. Confining a student to a chair for an hour with nothing to do for six days would certainly create a hostile environment which would interfere with a child’s mental or emotional well-being. The child has done nothing wrong and is being served with a corporal punishment. Parents will file formal DASA reports against districts that intend to enforce these policies. It is clearly harassment and bullying on the part of the school administration and school board to try to persuade parents to allow children to participate in NYS testing. The regulations can be found here.
The following school districts have been reported by parents or have publicly said that they will force students to “sit and stare”: Williamsville Central School District, Lancaster Central School District, Rush-Henrietta Central School District, Horseheads School District and East Meadow School District.
Parent, Jeanette Deutermann, North Bellmore public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt-Out, is fortunate that her children attend a school that allows children to read when the parent refuses participation in NYS testing. She goes on to say, “There is no reason for school districts to punish innocent children for an informed decision made by their parents for their protection. The NYS Education Department allows schools to design policies that could let children read a book, or even provide alternative educational activities, if the parent refuses to allow the child to participate in NYS testing. This has been verified with the Office of Assessment. It is pure unnecessary bullying on the part of these school districts to impose these punishments on innocent children.”
Parent, Eric Mihelbergel, Ken-Ton public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE says, “School districts are putting principals and teachers in a situation where they must now decide whether to disobey their superiors or disobey DASA Regulations. This does not make unions very happy, especially when it is completely and easily avoided.” NYS United Teachers (NYSUT), which consists of 600,000 members, condemns this type of policy. NYSUT President, Dick Iannuzzi, was quoted as saying, “NYSUT strongly condemns the policy of ‘sit and stare’.” He went on to say, “This is cruel to those students not taking the exam and a distraction and disservice to those who are attempting to complete it.”
And this from the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT):
Nearly two dozen districts across the state last year forced students who refused to take state standardized tests to “sit and stare” during the testing period. No books, no drawing. Students as young as 8 years old were forced to sit and stare at the walls for as long as 10 hours over three days.
In the Rush-Henrietta school district, a Rochester suburb, a middle- school boy whose parents opted him out of state testing was not allowed to play two games of baseball or attend practices. Not only did the school punish him for being “insubordinate,” it reportedly sent sheriff’s deputies to the ball field to make sure he didn’t play, according to court documents.
Other schools took away recess for elementary children whose parents chose to remove them from testing.
When NYSUT heard about these practices and growing concerns that more districts plan to use them this year to pressure parents to have their children take the state tests, NYSUT issued a press statement condemning “sit and stare” policies. NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi called on districts to provide constructive alternatives for students who opt out of taking state tests.
“Punishing or embarrassing children because their parents exercised their right to choose not to have their children participate in tests they consider inappropriate is, frankly, abusive,” Iannuzzi said.
With the next round of state assessments later this spring, Iannuzzi is calling on the State Education Department and Board of Regents to put an end to these “unconscionable” practices and provide clear guidelines to districts about how they should handle instances when parents choose to opt their children out of testing.
Knowing that parents will ask NYSUT members questions as they decide whether their children should take the state tests, Iannuzzi also sent guidance on this issue to local presidents in February.
While NYSUT does not encourage or discourage decisions by parents to “opt out” of state testing, the union strongly supports a parent’s right to “opt out” of state standardized tests if the parent believes state testing is inappropriate and may be harmful to his or her child.
NYSUT will vigorously defend members who are the subject of any negative employment action for choosing to “opt out” their own children, and will vigorously defend members’ right to speak, as concerned citizens, about the over reliance on state standardized testing.
To read this article in full, go to the NYSUT website.
Some Utah school districts are reporting higher numbers this year of parents opting their kids out of new state testing — known as SAGE. Parents have always had the right to keep their kids from testing, but this year’s higher numbers come amid anxiety over the new assessments.
The state school board decided Friday not to count students who opt out when calculating school grades, so as not to penalize schools. But questions remain about how opt-outs might affect teacher evaluations and federal tracking of Utah school progress.
“You can’t say there’s no effect because there is,” Judy Park, state associate superintendent, said about kids opting out. “That’s just the reality.”
Parent concerns include the content of the questions, high stakes testing in general, data collection and Common Core State Standards, on which the test questions are based.
To read this article in full, go to the Salt Lake Tribune.
And again in New York:
Students at Peru Central Schools in New York wrapped up Common Core testing Thursday.
The Common Core is a set of national standards adopted by 44 states, including New York. It involves testing third through eighth graders in math, science, and English.
“It’s one indicator to make a determination on programs for students, and also its a tool that we use look at the curriculum and our delivery in which we are delivering the curriculum to the students,” said Scott Storms, the Director of Curriculum Assessment at the Peru Central Schools.
While most students answered questions armed with number two pencils, Storms says others sat out.
“More students this year opted out,” said Storms.
About 25% of the student’s parents didn’t want them to take the test in Peru alone. Some parents I spoke with say they took their children out of the most recent round of tests because they say kids are tested too much in schools these days. But Storms says he’s heard two other common reasons for pulling students out of testing. The first is that parents of special education students decide they can’t sit through the testing, so parents decide it would be easier on the students to opt out. The other reason is parents are taking a political stance- opting out of the testing because they say they are against the common core.
To read the article in full, go to My Champlain Valley.
And from a parent in Texas:
Two weeks ago my husband and I sent a letter to the principal of the elementary school that our two children attend in Waco Independent School District informing her that we would be opting our children out of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (and practice STAAR tests) again this year. I say again because we sent a similar letter last year. We opt our children out of the STAAR test because we morally and ethically oppose high-stakes standardized testing.
Our letter to Waco ISD clearly outlines our reasons. (You can view the letter at http://kyledmassey.com/opting-out-staar-testing/). I’ll just summarize my concerns. I should note that we are not alone. Many parents across Texas and beyond are making the same decision. There is even an active Facebook group, Texas Parents Opt Out, that provides advice and encouragement to parents considering taking a stand against the testing regime that has engulfed public education in America.
The purpose of education is to develop creative and critical thinkers, not subservient test-takers. Public education in the United States has been the victim of 30 years of “reforms” that are steadily destroying our children’s opportunity to learn. Under the façade of “accountability,” these so-called “reformers” are systematically underfunding public schools, impeding the abilities of our best public school teachers to teach and destroying the creativity of our children. I do not want my children shackled to a faulty testing product such as the STAAR test. High-stakes standardized testing is not the educational experience we want for our children.
I am morally opposed to high-stakes standardized tests such as the STAAR (and before that TAAS) because research has shown these tests:
- Negatively impact the socio-emotional well-being of students.
- Kill curiosity and love of learning.
- Reduce a child’s capacity to learn new things.
- Replace high-order thinking with repetitive, multiple-choice skills.
- Narrow the curriculum, limiting what is taught and learned to what is tested.
- Reduce socialization as a central-core learning.
- Waste valuable educational time.
- Violate all children’s rights to a free and appropriate education.
- Limit the educational decision-making power of communities.
It is for all these reasons that Kyle and I could not in all good conscience allow our children to take the STAAR test.
Under the STAAR system, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for authentic teaching. This is proven in empirical studies. The testing of students increasingly drives curriculum and compromises both teaching and the role of students in learning. Student scores on statewide tests have become the only language of currency in education policy. Principals report that there can be little discussion of children’s development, of cultural relevance, of children’s contributions to classroom knowledge and interactions or of those engaging sidebar experiences at the margins of the official curriculum where children often do their best learning. Studies have shown that, according to urban principals, many have supervisors who say things like this: “Don’t talk to me about anything else till the test scores start to go up.”
To read this op ed in full, go to the Waco Tribune.
And from a council member of the Medford City Council in Massachusetts:
Know about your children’s rights regarding the upcoming Common Core/PARCC assessment exam and your right to “OPT OUT!”
This Common Core/PARCC issue I’m discussing is vitally important to every parent in Medford and in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, so I urge you to take the time to read and consider this article I have put together.
Throughout this essay, I shall present in simple terms my thought process. It is one that I have not taken lightly.
To be fair, there are people who will agree and disagree with me on this matter, and that will be their right.
During the past five weeks, I have been speaking out at the City Council on Medford’s upcoming Common Core/PARCC field testing. The testing is scheduled for some randomly pre-selected grades and students within our Medford Public Schools.
If Common Core and the PARCC field assessment test is accepted after the next two year tryout, then the whole Common Core undertaking and implementation will present a major educational change and huge financial demand upon our community.
As such, I believe it important and necessary to speak out early about this extremely important matter.
At the Thursday (3-20-2014) public forum held at the Carron Theatre, Medford High School, there were interesting comments and positions presented regarding Common Core and PARCC.
Participating at the forum were personnel from Medford’s School Department led by Superintendent of Schools Roy Belson, the State Department of Education, parents and a group of Medford elected officials, including myself.
For the purpose of this writing, I wish to comment on one particular issue out of the many that were discussed that evening … that being a parent’s right to not have their child take this exam or as it is better known as “opting out.”
I believe that we can all agree that smart and informed parents want strong public schools in their communities. There now comes from Washington a top down federal to state mandate claiming the alleged problems in public education in the U.S. can be corrected through Common Core and PARCC testing.
This, eventually will include increased regulations, federal standardized testing requirements, and mandates regarding what and how our children should be taught .
Since those Medford students selected will also be taking the MCAS test at approximately the same time, the questioning has been presented as to teacher and student preparing for both tests knowing some other class subject has to be forfeited.
As was stated at the March 20th meeting by Assistant Superintendent Diane Caldwell, Medford is putting in an inordinate amount of time to prepare for a sampling field test.
To read this op-ed in full, go to the Wicked Local Medford.
For additional information on the Common Core Standards, high stakes testing and opting out, check out these sources:
Submitted by Dora Taylor