Sunday, February 28, 2016

Opting Out Heats Up

 Update: a Huffington Post column from the Vice-President for Advocacy for National PTA is not getting much support.  Read those comments; rank and file PTA does not seem to like National telling them what to do.

It's getting to be testing time and BOY, are there a slew of states and groups and people worried that the opt-out movement will continue to grow.

First, for great information on opting out, United Opt Out is a national group.

There are two interesting developments on this front.
One is that the National PTA has warned the state Deleware PTA not to dare to step out of their party line on testing. (There is some kind of state law in play.)  Here's their position statement on assessments. (partial) They have a lot of blah, blah about parents and their concerns, but, in the end, side with the feds.
National PTA does not support state and district policies that allow students to opt-out of state assessments that are designed to improve teaching and learning. While we recognize that parents are a child’s first teacher and respect the rights of parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, the association believes the consequences of nonparticipation in state assessments can have detrimental impacts on students and schools.
From the Kilroy's Delaware blog:
Immediately cease advocacy efforts in support of the Delaware PTA Position Statement on Parent Opt Out HB50 including but not limited to website promotion, action alerts, e-newsletters, media interview and information flyers.
Per National PTA SOA Policy, if you are unable to comply with the SOA requirements by April 26, 2016 (60 days from this notification), a support team will be assigned to Delaware PTA to help create and implement a plan to move your PTA back into compliance.
National PTA gives a lengthy explanation of this stance.(partial)

As outlined in the position statement, the association does not believe that opting out is an effective strategy to address the frustration over testing. A blanket, mass opt-out of state-required assessments is not supported by National PTA. However, being an active and engaged advocate on behalf of full student participation in high-quality and comprehensive assessment  systems that measure student growth and achievement is the intent of the position statement.
National PTA staff recommends that Delaware PTA not engage in advocacy in support of HB 243. If passed as written, the bill would be in violation of federal law.  Additionally, the bill goes against the association’s position statement on assessment. The bill would allow parents and students to opt -out of state required assessments which would undermine the value of assessments to promote student growth and learning and result in incomplete data sets that would hinder student and school interventions and supports. The bill articulates that the state cannot use low participation rates against a school or district since the decision to opt-out is made by a parent. Your support of the proposed law in effect supports opt-out policies, which will be in opposition to the National PTA position statement.
The Delaware PTA fired back with this statement to the National about this stance.(partial)
When the position statement was released in January, we were initially informed that our advocacy of parental rights was not in conflict with the updated position statement, as Delaware PTA has never encouraged parents to opt of testing. However, upon further review National PTA has determined that our advocacy of parental rights is in fact in conflict with the updated position statement. As a result, Delaware PTA has received the attached DE Sanctions Letter from National PTA informing us that as a state association we are not in compliance with the Standards of Affiliation.
   As a state association, we are obligated to comply with the National PTA Standard of Affiliations which governs the relationship between National PTA and the state associations. Similarly, our bylaws define the relationship between the state association and our local units in that the local units may not collectively take up any position that contradicts the position of Delaware State PTA and by extension National PTA. As indicated in the letter, the position statement can only be amended /rescinded by the voting body. This will be an action item on the agenda for our upcoming Board of Managers meeting, where we will also accept a motion to amend the legislative priorities at the next state convention. In the interim, Delaware PTA is required to cease all advocacy related to parent opt out.
            We recognize that with the support of parents and teachers, several of our school districts have adopted policies, resolutions and/or procedures for honoring a parent’s request to opt out of the state assessment. National PTA’s prohibition on our advocacy only extends to the state association and thus the local units. This position does not have any impact on individual activity and advocacy.
The other big meme is that the only people who support opting out are white and mostly suburban/urban moms in good schools.  They are being selfish and having "petulant" rallies (no kidding, this one guy wrote that AND stands by it but I couldn't get him to describe what a "petulant" protest looks like.  He says he wasn't referencing parents.)

Jesse Hagopian, Garfield teacher and opt-out activist  challenged this guy, telling him that most of the opting out in New Mexico was from Mexican and Native American families (which is true.)

I think the point is that no one can say for certain exactly who is opting out and in what numbers.  I haven't seen a state yet that said "12% of white families, 2% of black families, etc."  I have only seen percentages overall.  Who shows up at any given rally is not always who acts.

More opting out stories:

emPower - 5 Myths About Standardized Testing and the Opt Out Movement (partial)
United Opt Out National*, a leading organization supporting parents right to opt out, has a map on their website that shows the numbers of opt out across the country.


1. Standardized testing is needed to address the racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps. At first read it sounds like standardized testing was designed to close the achievement gap. This is simply not true. No test can close a gap. Testing can only show you were the gaps are.

2. Standardized testing is needed to hold teachers and districts accountable.

3. Opting out does not prepare children for the real world. This myth is directed towards the students who are choosing to opt out. But there is one difference between those possible future tests and the current standardized tests you are refusing to take today: a low score on the SAT, ACT, GRE, or LSAT does not mean that you cannot go to college, graduate school, or even law school. If you fail to pass a high stakes standardized test, you may not graduate depending on what state you live in.


4. Opting out is for white middle class families who only care about their children.

Arne Duncan, Secretary of the Department of Education, bolstered this myth when he accused white soccer moms of fighting the Common Core State Standards because the tests showed that their children were not as bright as they thought they were. Others have also pushed this myth, arguing that “The opt-out movement is dominated by middle-class families that are concerned for the welfare of their own children, but seem less concerned about poor children who are languishing in low-performing schools.” I say this myth is partly true because the opt out movement is dominated by white middle class parents (so are many of our public schools). But this does not mean that those pushing the opt out movement are not concerned about poor children in public schools. In fact many of us in the opt out movement, are the same ones demanding that poverty and income equality be addressed. 
And in New Jersey and New York there are schools that are predominantly high-poverty opting out in huge numbers.

5. Opting out does nothing to stop the testing industrial complex that is dismantling public education.

The goal of the opt out movement is simple: deny the testing industrial complex the data it needs. Without the data the testing machine will grind to a halt. Like the prison industrial complex, the testing industrial complex grew into a monster that we can no longer control. Once it became apparent how much profit could be made off of testing all children in public schools all the time, the beast was unleashed and now the only way we can stop it, is to starve the beast, deny it the data it needs to survive. 


I will note here that neither I, nor most of the people I know who support opting out, are saying "no testing."  But the overkill that is happening needs to stop and there is really only one way to do that.

ChalkBeat Colorado - After widespread test protests last fall, opting out spread during spring exams

Washington Post - At least 500,000 students in 7 states sat out standardized tests this past spring
The National Center for Fair and Open Testing and its affiliated groups surveyed school districts and monitored state government reports to come up with “opt-out” estimates for seven states. They are New York (240,000 students opted out), New Jersey (110,000), Colorado (100,000), Washington state (50,000), Oregon (20,000), Illinois (20,000) and New Mexico (10,000).

Phys.org - College readiness declines when school's focus is improving test scores, study finds

District Administrators magazine - 
Political pressure against the Common Core will increase in some states this year, according to DA’s standards and assessments survey.
Sixty-two percent of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed that political pressure against the Common Core will increase in their state in 2016. Only 18 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with that.
The “opt-out” movement will also grow in some states, according to survey results. About 60 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that more students will skip tests, compared to 23 percent who felt the opposite way.
Education Week -
Comparing Paper-Pencil and Computer Test Scores: 7 Key Research Studies

News that millions of students who took the PARCC exams on computers tended to score worse than those who took the tests on paper raises an important question: 

Do the computer-based exams that are increasingly prevalent in K-12 measure the same things as more traditional paper-based tests?
On one hand, Briggs noted, computer- and paper-based versions of an exam shouldn't necessarily be expected to measure the same things, or have comparable results. Part of the motivation for pouring hundreds of millions of federal dollars into the new consortia exams, after all, was to use technology to create better tests that elicit more evidence of students' critical thinking skills, ability to model and solve problems, and so forth.
But the reality is that in some states and districts, the technology infrastructure doesn't exist to support administration of the computer-based exams. All children don't have the same access to technology at home and in school, nor do their teachers use technology in the classroom in the same ways, even when it is present. And some students are much more familiar than others with basic elements of a typical computer-based exam's digital interface—how to scroll through a window, use word-processing features such as cutting and pasting, and how to drag and drop items on a screen, for example.
As a result, there is a mounting body of evidence that some students tend to do worse on computer-based versions of an exam, for reasons that have more to do with their familiarity with technology than with their academic knowledge and skills.
KPLU - The State That Pulled the Plug on Computer Testing
Tens of thousands of Tennessee students steadied their clammy, test-day hands over a keyboard several days ago. And, for many, nothing happened. 

It was the state's first time giving standardized exams on computers, but the rollout couldn't have gone much worse. 

In lots of places, the testing platform slowed to a crawl or appeared to shut down entirely. Within hours, Tennessee scrapped online testing for the year.
Diane Ravitch - Florida: Democratic Leader in House Urges Parents to Opt Out.
“Florida Rep. Mark Pafford, leader of the House Democrats, is urging parents to consider taking their children out of the annual spring Florida Standards Assessments.
“I hope every parent begins to take the time to understand how serious this issue is,” Pafford said at a recent press availability. “That their children are being subjected to tests that in the end don’t amount to much. That the data that comes from those tests are sometimes shared so late it doesn’t matter.
“And, frankly… you have to question the purpose of these tests, whether they’re being used in the best way for children in advancing the public education system, or whether, in fact, they’re being used to create a bastardized type of education system that’s dependent on the private sector.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm deleting your remark as it has nothing to do with this threat. Feel free to repost on an Open Thread.