In all Néw York state, Néw York City had one of the lowest opt out rates. Children and parents were warned by principals that their school would lose funds or might be closed. Immigrants didn’t want to have a run-in with the law. Children heard that they would not get into a good middle school without high test scores.
But some disregarded the threats.
In this post, some of the brave parents explain why they opted their children out.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Opt-Out Numbers in New York City Surge (a 64%+ increase from 2014) as Parents Question the Motives of Those Who Push High-Stakes Testing
Despite deep-pocketed corporate ad campaigns to discourage test refusal, the opt-out movement in New York City has grown exponentially in the past year. Parents who have collected statistics on opt out from their schools have calculated a 64%+ increase from 2014’s numbers, with 3124 refusals reported so far. This percentage, and the absolute number of refusals, is expected to rise, as it has every year, when the Department of Education delivers its official count in the months to come. Even more families are expected to hand in opt-out letters tomorrow, when NY State administers the Common Core Math tests to city 3rd-8th graders.
The public school families who gathered in sunny Prospect Park represented about 15 of the 93 city schools who have children opting out this year. Parent after parent—and one student—denounced the deleterious effects of a test-centered culture, and questioned the motives of those who insist on the propagation of such a culture.
Amy Plattsmier, who has children in elementary and middle school, underscored that the Opt Out movement is parent-led. “Contrary to what you might hear, this movement is not a creation of the teachers unions, nor are our children ‘caught up in the midst of a labor dispute.’ That narrative is trivializing, as it disregards the hard work of parents, who have been mobilizing against these tests in various ways for years.” Hitting a nerve with the other families present, Plattsmier asked, “Who is being enriched as our schools are increasingly stripped of enrichment?”
Next, Eleanor Rogers, a parent from Brooklyn’s P.S. 130, a Title 1 school, encapsulating a theme that echoed through the comments of all parents who followed, questioned the motives of those who enable the flow of corporate money into public education, “Stop enriching corporations who care more about making money than caring for our kids! We can’t match their millions. Their army of lobbyists, their radio commercials, their contributions to political campaigns… All we have is the power to opt out.”
Charmaine Dixon, a parent at PS 203 in Brooklyn, followed, “My school is a Title 1 school and our community has been sold a load of goods… We watch as test preparation and the focus on getting the right answer—not asking the right questions—crowd out real learning in our schools. I Question the Motive of those who would keep us from rising to our true potential.”
Katharine James, parent of a 2nd grader at another Title 1 school, Brooklyn’s PS 295, where 22% of the students are classified as ELLs, asked why the state tests are being given to students who are just learning English. “My daughter has several kids in her class who have only recently immigrated. I am not against high expectations for students, including ELLs. But if you are pretty certain that a child will fail a test–because 97% of all ELLs did just that last year–why would you insist on administering it? What would be your motivation?
Shiloh Gonsky, a 6th grader at MS 51 in Brooklyn, communicated her shock and disappointment when, on the first day of school her math teacher instructed students to pay attention “because what we were learning would be on “the test” in April. Wow. I was hoping to learn math because it’s interesting or cool, because I need math for life.”
Jody Drezner Alperin, mother of 2 children who attend PS 10, spoke about the secrecy that surrounds the tests. “I am diligent about what I feed my children, what activities they’re involved in, and even what movie I let them see at the theatre. I really question the test companies who claim their products are so great yet let no one vet them before they’re given to our kids. What are these companies hiding?”
She continued, “Before our school can’t give my kids aspirin without my permission. But imagine if the school announced that for two weeks every year, they were going to take our children out of their classroom — and no one, not parents, not the teacher, not the principal, NOT EVEN THE REGENTS THEMSELVES—would know what the children were doing instead of their regular classroom work. And there would never be any report on their activities afterward, no discussion or feedback on those two weeks except for numbers 1, 2, 3, or 4. Welcome to the state tests! When a Test Security Unit treats the administering of tests like a matter of national security, I Question the Motive.”
Reyhan Mehran, a PS 58 parent, talked about the ‘original opt outers’, “the rich and the powerful who have created high-stakes testing, have not only opted out of the test, they’ve opted out of public education altogether. They try to convince us that buying their test prep is necessary. Meanwhile, their children in private school have small class size, art, music, and creative project time. Believe me, I Question their Motive.”
Johanna Perez, whose children attend PS 146, Brooklyn New School, and PPAS in Manhattan, questioned the validity of the tests as effective measures. “When the American Statistical Association calls these tests invalid, as a parent, I Question the Motive.When my principal calls the tests developmentally inappropriate and intentionally confusing, I question the motive. When my 9-year old is given a test that is longer than the LSATs, I Question the Motive.”
Finally, Cynthia Copeland, whose child attends ICE, the Institute of Collaborative Education, asked why this untested assessment system would be pushed on schools in the first place when performance-based assessment, the alternative assessment used at ICE and the other schools of the NY State Performance Standards Consortium has a proven track record that “increases student curiosity, encourages teacher creativity and professionalism, and enhances our students’ education. Assessment that is instead based on high-stakes tests leads to an increase in dropouts, a decrease in student interest, and the trivialization of curriculum.” Copeland also asked if the myopic focus on testing was meant to distract from the massive underfunding we see in our city’s unequal, segregated schools.
NYC OPT OUT is a loose coalition of parents throughout New York City who have come together to share information about the New York State tests and their effects on children, teachers, and schools. They support each other via the NYC Opt Out Facebook page.