Opting Out Talk is Not Dying Down

Diane Ravitch had this recording of a weekly ed reform show from Michael Petrilli at the Fordham Institute.  In the first 7 minutes of the show, he worries about the opting out going on in NY state.  It's everything from unhappy tweets to 1,000s of parents (actually hundreds of thousands) opting their kids out and hey, what does it all mean?

He and his co-host say they just can't tell exactly why parents are doing this.  They opine that it can't be because Common Core testing is costing so much the arts are being cut (surmising that "affluent" schools just can't be cutting the arts). 

They fret over this "big deal now" and what if it spreads nationwide? He says:

If this goes national, this whole school reform thing is in serious trouble."

Sorry, Mike, the genie is out of the bottle.

Speaking of Ravitch, she also has news from Minneapolis via the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The newest math scores for Minneapolis South High School’s 11th-graders plunged more than 25 percentage points compared with 2013. At Southwest High School, scores dropped 22 points over the same period.

The dramatic fall off at two of Minneapolis’ best schools is not because of a crisis of academic achievement, but rather historic numbers of top students who are exercising a little-known right to opt out of standardized tests.
She gives several reasons why parents are opting out (really, it's no mystery but the corporate ed reformers make it sound like it is). 
Parents know that the absence of transparency by the test-makers in not in the interest of their children and that the tests are designed to fail the majority of students because their passing score is set unrealistically high. Some parents understand that the tests provide little or no diagnostic information about their children (most Common Core tests provide NO diagnostic information, just a score.) Some are protesting the Common Core,  some are protesting the federal takeover of their state and their local schools. Some are protesting the tests themselves.
The NY Times also has a good debate in Room for Debate between Patricia Levesque who works for Jeb Bush's "Foundation for Excellence in Education" and Kevin Welner, the director of the National Education Policy Center.

I made a comment where I call out one of Ms. Levesque's paragraphs.
 "We do this by determining what children need to know, not what we think they can learn based on their circumstances. We then measure their progress and hold adults in the system accountable for doing their job. "

And there you have it - testing's not-so-subtle backstory.

That first sentence is a backhanded way to try to make anyone who argues against the current testing craze sound like they believe poor kids can't learn. No one is saying that.

The second sentence in that paragraph? It's about teachers. Are we putting measures in place to judge principals and superintendents on these test scores? No.


dan dempsey said…
"The whole school reform thing is in serious trouble" and not just because of opt outs.

The "reform thing" is based on nearly total nonsense.

Ed reform is characterized by ... Top down edicts based on fairy tales rather than solid proven practices.

HERE IS the STORY about failing schools and the turn-around models. (requires a word processor to open)

Opting out is becoming the new civil resistance against Federal tyranny.

I sure hope our legislators are not planning on sending McCreary money into Common Core alignment and SBAC.
Anonymous said…
The more we focus on standards - the worse we become. Standard is the opposite of creative. And standards, at best, can only prepare students for what used to be. Kill it, before it kills us.

Anonymous said…
Civil Rights Groups: “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts”
Participation in Assessments Critical for Expanding Educational Opportunity for All Students

May 5, 2015

WASHINGTON – Today, 12 national civil and human rights groups announced their opposition to anti-testing efforts springing up across the country that are discouraging students from taking standardized tests and subverting the validity of data about educational outcomes. Data obtained through some standardized tests are particularly important to the civil rights community because they are the only available, consistent, and objective source of data about disparities in educational outcomes, even while vigilance is always required to ensure tests are not misused. These data are used to advocate for greater resource equity in schools and more fair treatment for students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners. Anti-testing efforts have resulted in statewide bills and local pressure on schools to discourage students from taking assessments, which would undermine the validity of this data. The groups’ joint statement follows:

“For the civil rights community, data provide the power to advocate for greater equality under the law. It’s the reason we’ve fought to make sure that we’re counted equally in every aspect of American life, such as in employment, the criminal justice system, and consumer lending.

Our commitment to fair, unbiased, and accurate data collection and reporting resonates greatest in our work to improve education. The educational outcomes for the children we represent are unacceptable by almost every measurement. And we rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children. These data are critical for understanding whether and where there is equal opportunity.

Standardized tests, as ‘high stakes tests,’ have been misused over time to deny opportunity and undermine the educational purpose of schools, actions we have never supported and will never condone. But the anti-testing efforts that appear to be growing in states across the nation, like in Colorado and New York, would sabotage important data and rob us of the right to know how our students are faring. When parents ‘opt out’ of tests—even when out of protest for legitimate concerns—they’re not only making a choice for their own child, they’re inadvertently making a choice to undermine efforts to improve schools for every child.

Until federal law insisted that our children be included in these assessments, schools would try to sweep disparities under the rug by sending our children home or to another room while other students took the test. Hiding the achievement gaps meant that schools would not have to allocate time, effort, and resources to close them. Our communities had to fight for this simple right to be counted and we are standing by it.

That’s why we’re troubled by the rhetoric that some opponents of testing have appropriated from our movement. The anti-testing effort has called assessments anti-Black and compared them to the discriminatory tests used to suppress African-American voters during Jim Crow segregation. They’ve raised the specter of White supremacists who employed biased tests to ‘prove’ that people of color were inferior to Whites.

There are some legitimate concerns about testing in schools that must be addressed. But instead of stimulating worthy discussions about over-testing, cultural bias in tests, and the misuse of test data, these activists would rather claim a false mantle of civil rights activism. At the heart of that debate is whether or not we will have the courage to make the necessary investments in each and every child, no matter their race, ethnicity, class, disability status, or first language.

But we cannot fix what we cannot measure. And abolishing the tests or sabotaging the validity of their results only makes it harder to identify and fix the deep-seated problems in our schools.”

--- swk
Anonymous said…
The above signed by the following groups:


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
The American Association of University Women (AAUW)
Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA)
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)
National Urban League (NUL)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

--- swk
Anonymous said…
swk, you just don't get it. The most important part of thus article passes right over your head.

Standardized tests, as ‘high stakes tests,’ have been misused over time to deny opportunity and undermine the educational purpose of schools, actions we have never supported and will never condone.

That is the crux. It is the high stakes nature of the test, which makes the test both a mandate and a graduation requirement, that makes this unacceptable. Testing to deny opportunity. It is unacceptable. Not to mention the unspeakably long testing times. We have middle schoolers spending more than 10 hours per ELA and likely even more on math. Guess what? They're still not done. We don't even know when we will test them. Nor, what we will require that they miss in order to be tested. More denial of education. Stupidity.

One other fact. Only the math teachers could pass the 8th grade math test. Why do we give a test so out of line with any useful skill????

Anonymous said…
As for the amount of instructional time being lost just to take the SBAC, it's out of control. The school year might as well be over. By the time testing is done, it will be the middle of May and students will be spent. What a waste...all to give us similar information that can be had with a one day multi-subject multiple choice test.

-opted out
Anonymous said…
Reason #99 to question Common Core tests:


(assessment of PARCC)

-opted out
Anonymous said…
The classic BIG LIE being embraced and repeated by the Civil Rights groups suffering from Stockholm Syndrome due to their benefactors' agenda is that adequate testing, including data collection, does not already exist, and thus Common Core Standardized Tests are our only hope to remedy the situation for struggling students or students historically denied opportunities available to others.

Lots of words, but ultimately a steaming pile of bull crap. Their premises and arguments are based on false facts, and the Ed Reform crowd is so myopic, so brainwashed, so ideologically driven, and convinced they are right, they cannot be persuaded by facts and are shocked and dismayed by those who can.

Folks, anything coming out of DC has been focus grouped and "framed." Frame the issue as though there are only two choices, good or bad, and you can see how the group think mentality and us vs. them, good vs. evil forms.

Sorry to the Civil Rights Groups who signed that letter, but there are far better ways to test kids, collect data, and educate our young than memorizing the Common Core curricula. The best and brightest minds in Ed Reform have so narrowed the boundary lines of what constitutes an "education" that anything not measured and crunched by computers is wholly irrelevant and, in their minds, unmeasurable and unworthy of discussion. And therein lies the fallacy of their positions.

Anonymous said…
WSDWG, your statement that "the Ed Reform crowd is so myopic, so brainwashed, so ideologically driven, and convinced they are right, they cannot be persuaded by facts and are shocked and dismayed by those who can" made me laugh out loud (aka LOL).

I simply substituted "the neo-Marxist/critical pedagogy crowd" for the Ed Reform crowd and got a big ol' chuckle.

The sad thing is that the warfare between these two groups is actually damaging our public schools. Both claim they're trying to save public schools and address disparities but they're actually engaged in an ideological war with students, parents, and teachers (and the structure and mission of our public schools) as the collateral damage.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
@swk: I would largely agree with you, except that one side is funded by oligarchs and billionaires, while the other isn't. And in the USA, the real Golden Rule is that he who has the gold makes the rules. So, I ain't too worried about neo-Marxists buying their way into my kids' heads anytime soon.

If you watch John Oliver's takedown from the other post, I think you'll see how out of touch the testing industry and it's fanboys are, for example. That they aren't humiliated, ashamed and humbled at how their antics and methods hurt kids, demonstrates how deeply cured their concrete ideological minds are on the subject.

To me, that's scarier than gadflies and obstructionists. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
WSDWG, I would largely agree with you, except that certain neo-Marxists are often funded by labor unions and control the culture and policies of some of our largest baccalaureate institutions.

I'm certainly scared of the ability they have to indoctrinate our kids and limit free speech, open discourse, and liberal education in our public schools and institutions of higher education.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
Our middle school students with disabilities started out with every intention of participating in the SBAC. But after 9 hours of SBAC ELA testing, and still no completion - they all opted out. Same for many other students. Saddest thing of all - students trying to complete the ELA SBAC - were missing the SBAC MATH prep classes. That is, the only thing SBAC testers were missing - was SBAC test prep. Oh the irony! That's after our school has spent at least 2 months on Amplify testing, and many teachers also use "Amplify" mid-term tests. And while most math teachers seem to be able to gather some useful information from Amplify - no language arts teachers even look at those results. Is there any real school anymore? Computers are unusable for anything else. It seems that the "21st Century Skill" is test taking.

Reality Check

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