Archives for category: Parents

Parents Across America has called on states to take advantage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and abolish VAM.


PAA has been critical of high-stakes testing.


PAA also produced a one-page fact sheet to demonstrate the failure of value-added-measurement.

This article by Andrew Ujifusa in Education Week is a good summary of where the opt out movement stands today. In addition, it describes the Network for Public Education’s 50-state report card, which will be released in D.C. on February 2 at the National Press Club at 1:30 pm. If you are in the area, plan to attend and learn which states support and value public education.



Ujifusa writes:



Activists driving the resistance to state exams are attempting to build on their state-level momentum over the past year, while also venturing into a new political landscape that will test whether the energy behind their initial victories will last.

And they say they’re forging ahead with their plans regardless of how much support they get from traditional education advocacy groups, including teachers’ unions.

Several leaders within the so-called testing opt-out movement, which has gained considerable traction in New York and also found a foothold in states like Colorado and Connecticut, say they will continue to push parents to refuse to allow their children to take standardized exams, particularly state tests, for as long as it’s necessary.

They’ll stop, they say, when states adopt accountability policies that prevent tests from being used to rank, sort, and impose what opponents consider unfair consequences on students, teachers, and schools.

Some groups also are looking to extend their influence beyond testing fights to push in states for higher and more equitable levels of school funding and changes to K-12 governance to increase what they say is more local and more democratic control.

No Child Left Behind required states to have a 95% participation rate in state testing; so does the new Every Student Succeeds Act. However, the U.S. Department of Education recently sent a letter to states with high opt out rates warning that there would be serious sanctions if their participation rate drops below 95%. The only reason this would happen is if large numbers of parents opted their children out of the testing. The Education Department that sanctions might include withholding federal funds. This is ironic: suburban parents opt their children out, so urban children (the main recipients of Title I funding) will lose funding. Good thinking, bureaucrats!


Randi Weingarten sent a letter to John King calling on him to back off:



January 7, 2016


The Honorable John King


Acting Secretary Department of Education


400 Maryland Ave., SW


Washington, DC 20202


Dear Acting Secretary King,


I am writing to express my disappointment and frustration at the Dec. 22, 2015, letter signed by Acting Assistant Secretary Ann Whalen regarding participation rates on state tests and the U.S. Department of Education’s planned enforcement of the 95 percent participation rate requirement.


This Dec. 22 letter signals intent to vigorously enforce the 95 percent test participation requirement and outlines consequences that include withholding funds. The letter goes against the spirit of a Dec. 18 letter from Acting Assistant Secretary Whalen, issued less than a week earlier, indicating that the department would fully support states, districts and schools as they transition to implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act. As you are well aware, while the new ESSA requires states to test 95 percent of students, it allows them to decide how they will factor this requirement into their accountability system. States are now working out how they will move to new accountability systems, and they need the flexibility and support offered in your Dec. 18 letter, not the threat of sanctions contained in the Dec. 22 letter.


Make no mistake, the opt-out movement—the reason that so many states did not meet the 95 percent participation requirement in 2014-15—was a referendum on this administration’s policies that created the culture of overtesting and punishment. Your October 2015 “Testing Action Plan” admitted as much, and the overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of ESSA was a strong signal that the page must be turned on these policies.


With one year left in your administration, we ask that you step away from business as usual. America’s schools don’t need letters threatening to withhold much- needed funds. They need support as they work to figure out their new accountability systems, including how the 95 percent participation requirement will be included.


Congratulations on your new role, and we look forward to working with you this year on ESSA implementation.




Randi Weingarten President

Remember how the Every Student Succeeds Act was transferring power from the Feds to the states? Well, not everything. The law still requires annual testing as before. It still requires a participation rate of 95%. The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to education officials across the nation to advise them about these basic facts.


But what happens when large numbers of students opt out to protest over testing, loss of the arts, and lousy tests?


As Alyson Klein explains in Edweek,



When it comes to opt-outs, ESSA has a complex solution. It maintains a requirement in the previous version of ESEA, the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act, that all schools test at least 95 percent of their students, both for the whole school, and for traditionally overlooked groups of students (English Language Learners, racial minorities, students in special education, kids in poverty). Under NCLB, though, schools that didn’t meet the 95 percent participation requirement were considered automatic failures—and that was true under the Obama administration’s waivers from the law, too. (That part of the NCLB law was never waived.)


Now, under ESSA, states must figure low testing participation into school ratings, but just how to do that is totally up to them. And states can continue to have laws affirming parents’ right to opt their students out of tests (as Oregon does).


This is the year of opt-outs, and no less than a dozen states—Rhode Island, Oregon, Wisconsin, Washington, Delaware, North Carolina, Idaho, New York, Colorado, California, Connecticut, and Maine, received letters from the U.S. Department flagging low-participation rates on the 2014-15 tests—statewide or at the district or subgroup level—and asking what they planned to do about it. The department is reviewing the information it got from states. So far, the administration has yet to take serious action (like withholding money) against a state with a high opt-out rate.


So what’s this letter about? It sounds like the department is reminding states that they must come up with some kind of a plan to address opt-outs in their accountability systems, even in this new ESSA universe. And if they don’t have some sort of a plan in place, they’ll risk federal sanctions.


And, in a preview of what guidance could look like now that ESSA is in place, the department gives a list of suggested actions states could take in response to low participation rates. These actions are all pretty meaningful, like withholding state and district aid, counting schools with low participation rates as non-proficient for accountability, or requiring districts and schools to come up with a plan to fix their participation rates.


The letter makes it clear that states can come up with their own solutions, though. So it’s possible a state could decide to do something a lot less serious than the options listed in the letter. But importantly, states’ opt-out actions would likely have to be consistent with their waiver plans, since waivers are still in effect through the end of the school year. 


But the bottom line is that no state can prevent parents from opting their children out of state tests. They may threaten sanctions, but the larger the number of opt outs, the hollower the threats. This is called democracy. When the government announces a policy–in this case, a policy that was agreed upon behind closed doors, without any democratic discussion or debate–the citizens can register their views by saying NO.


No other nation in the world–at least no high-performing nation–tests every child every year. Annual testing was imposed on the nation by Congress in 2001 and signed into law as NCLB in 2002. We were told that annual testing meant that “no child would be left behind.” That didn’t happen. What we got instead was narrowing the curriculum, billions for the testing industry, cheating, and teaching to bad standardized tests.


The people who love high-stakes testing make sure that their own children attend schools like the University of Chicago Lab School (Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel) or Sidwell Friends (Barack Obama), where there is no high-stakes testing. The onerous testing of NCLB and the Race to the Top is not for their children, just yours.


Despite the failure of annual testing to fulfill the promise, Congress imposed it again. The more parents opt out, the sooner Congress will get the message that this policy is wrong.


Protect your children. Protect education. Cut off the money flow to Pearson and friends.


Opt out in 2016.






Parents in an elementary school in Chicago brought  cleaning supplies to their children’s school, because of the filthy conditions in the bathrooms. The leadership of Chicago Public Schools, controlled directly by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, privatized custodial services last year, and at that time the principals complained that the schools were getting dirtier by the day because of the loss of their custodians.


Would Mayor Emanuel tolerate these conditions in his own children’s school? Would any member of the Chicago Board of Education? What do you think?



On Saturday, a handful of pre-kindergarten parents packed yellow rubber gloves and spray bottles of vinegar and baking soda solution and headed to Suder Montessori Elementary Magnet School, 2022 W. Washington Blvd., on the Near West Side, where they spent the morning cleaning their children’s washrooms.


The parents felt they didn’t have a choice: Upon entering the bathrooms, they found pools of day-old urine on the floor, feces smeared on the walls and clogged, stinking toilet bowls. In the past few weeks, the school had an E. coli outbreak and more than half of the kindergarten students missed school because of various diseases, including a stomach bug, diarrhea or vomiting, said Michelle Burgess, head of the school’s parent-teacher association.


“These are preschoolers. They go to the bathroom and miss. The boys play in the urinals. And sometimes can’t get to the toilet fast enough. It’s understandable,” said Angela Morales, the parent of two children who attend the school. “But they need to clean. We can’t have our kids be in this filth.”


Parents claim the unsanitary bathroom conditions, overflowing garbage cans and soiled napping cots are the result of inadequate custodial care following the Chicago Board of Education’s decision last spring to award multi-million dollar custodial management contracts to two firms, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC.


The decision to privatize much of the custodial work was made in light of “daunting financial challenges” faced by the district, CPS officials have said. Surveys conducted by principals and parent organizations at the beginning of the school year aired numerous complaints of filthy conditions inside some school buildings after the custodial changes.


Aramark and Chicago Public School officials could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.


Questions about school cleanliness grew further in early September when district officials announced close to 480 subcontracted custodians who work in CPS buildings would be laid off by Aramark.


CPS officials in March signed a minimum three-year contract worth up to $260 million with Aramark. SodexoMAGIC also received a minimum three-year, up to $80 million contract for facility upkeep earlier this year.


The reduced contracts, Suder parents say, have led to the school operating with two full-time custodians and one part-time custodian as opposed to operating with four full-time custodians as it had in previous years. Parents claim that since the reductions, janitors have done a poor job maintaining regular cleaning duties and, for the past three months, have mopped the floor with water—and nothing else.



Edward F. Berger reports that districts across the state–all but a handful of small rural ones–voted to adopt school bond issues, despite a campaign by the Koch brothers, ALEC, and other forces intent on killing public schools.


Despite choices everywhere, nearly 90% of parents still choose public schools. And despite nonstop propaganda, parents and seniors voted to fund their community public schools.


Berger writes:


It has been over twenty years since frustrated educators, idealists, and those wanting to destroy public education offered School Choice, and partial schools, as options for parents. These experiments have been given more than a fair test. The results of this gamble are now clear. The great majority of parents – nearly 90% – have examined the options and support community public comprehensive schools with full curricula and services. They demand schools with democratically elected school boards and complete financial accountability. There is no doubt about what parents, educators, and citizens want and what children need. The frightening thing is that a minority in power ignore the will of the people.


There can be no doubt that parents reject the school choice option. Most parents never placed their children in incomplete education programs. A majority of those who let their children be experimented on have regretted their decisions. Many are now aware that that public comprehensive schools offer much more than partial schools. Children need more than drilling and practice just to pass tests in math, English, and a few select subjects. Yet the political forces and the self-appointed reformers that have taken control of states and local school districts refuse to respond to the will of the great majority. None of these self-aggrandized kings have ever been vetted, trained, or are experienced as educators, yet they force their ideologies on the great majority.

Michael Elliott is a gifted videographer who has made videos for parents who protest testing. He knows the issues: his own children are in public school in Brooklyn.


In this post, he explains why opt out numbers were very low in New York City, while parents in the rest of the state were refusing to let their children take the state tests. Statewide, more than 220,000 students did not take the state tests in 2015, about 20% of students statewide. In New York City, the opt outs were only 1.4%.


Elliott explains the difference. Students in low-performing schools have the possibility of school closure hanging over their heads. If they opt out, their school might close.


Students in other schools need test scores to be admitted to a junior high school or high school of their choice (and they might not get their choice anyway, since the city has a convoluted system based on admissions to medical schools).


Fear suppressed the New York City opt outs.


Interesting that when you think about the number of opt outs in the rest of the state–excluding NYC–the proportion rises dramatically. Maybe 30% or more of the kids outside NYC opted out. No wonder the politicians in Albany are running scared and trying to allay the concerns of the angry parents on Long Island, upstate, and in the Hudson Valley.

Nicholas Tampio, a professor of political science at Fordham University, argues that the Every Student Succeeds Act is a sham. Instead of dismantling the harmful policies of corporate reform, it shifts the burden of imposing them to the states. By his reading, the warped soul of NCLB and Race to the Top was preserved with their emphasis on high-stakes testing.

The opt out movement must grow and grow until every state government and Congress recognizes that parents won’t tolerate the worship of high-stakes testing. We will not sacrifice our children and grandchildren to the gods of testing. The achievement gap is a product of standardized tests. The standardized tests faithfully reproduce family income, not the ability to learn. American students need a great education, like the one Bill Gates wants for his children at the Lakeside School, like the one Rahm Emanuel wants for his children at the University of Chicago Lab School, like the one President Obama wants for his children at the Sidwell Friends School. An education that includes the arts, foreign languages, history, science, physical education, literature, civics, time for play, time for exploration, time for projects, time for recess. NOT an “education” that is centered on standardized tests, where children are rated and ranked by their ability to mark the correct bubbles. We want an education that encourages children to ask question, not an education that prepares them to give the “right” answer.


He writes:


How can people say that the new bill is a U-turn from the education policies of the past 14 years? Under it, the federal government would not be able tell states what academic standards to adopt or how student test scores should be used in teacher evaluations. Nonetheless, states would have to submit accountability plans to the Department of Education for approval, and these accountability plans would have to weigh test scores more than any other factor. Furthermore, under the act, states would have to use “evidence-based interventions” in the bottom 5 percent of schools, determined, again, by test scores.


In short, states would be free to choose test-based accountability policies approved by the secretary of education or lose access to federal Title I funds that sustain schools in low-income communities across the country. In a move that belies Alexander’s claim about local control, the Department of Education has offered to establish “office hours” for states or districts that wish to meet its “policy objectives and requirements under the law.”


Does the bill at least permit states to escape the Common Core? It is hard to see how. According to the bill, each state would have to adopt “challenging state academic standards.” The Obama administration’s testing action plan stipulates that assessment systems should measure student knowledge and skills against “state-developed college- and career-ready standards” — which has long been code for the Common Core. So, yes, states could invest hundreds of millions of dollars to write new academic standards and make aligned tests, but there is no guarantee that the secretary of education would approve standards or tests that implicitly chastise the administration’s education policies.


Advocates of high-stakes Common Core testing have applauded the Every Student Achieves Act. Catherine Brown, the director of education policy at the Center for American Progress, said, “At the end of the day the bill appears to allow the department to set parameters in key areas and enforce statutory requirements.” John Engler of the Business Roundtable likewise applauded the bill for keeping test scores “a central feature” of state accountability systems. Lanea Erickson at Third Way praised the bill for throwing “some much-needed water on the political firestorm around testing.”


These advocates have not changed their minds about the Common Core or testing. They are just happy to shift the responsibility for administering it to the states rather than the federal government if that would help defuse parent and educator animosity. They misunderstand the justified anger that fuels the test refusal movement.



A colleague just pointed out to me that the current Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka NCLB) allows schools to turn over the names and addresses of students to military recruiters and institutions of higher education.


The same practice is continued in the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Parents of high school students, please note that you may opt your child out if you don’t want them to hear from military recruiters or others. (I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I hate the name of this new act. Why can’t they just call it the Elementary and Secondary Education Act? Who will be held accountable if every students does NOT succeed?)




From page 847:

MATION.—Notwithstanding section 444(a)(5)(B) of
3 the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C.
4 1232g(a)(5)(B)), each local educational agency re5
ceiving assistance under this Act shall provide, upon
6 a request made by a military recruiter or an institu7
tion of higher education, access to the name, ad8
dress, and telephone listing of each secondary school
9 student served by the local educational agency, un10
less the parent of such student has submitted the
11 prior consent request under paragraph (2).
12 ‘‘(2) CONSENT.—
13 ‘‘(A) OPT-OUT PROCESS.—A parent of a
14 secondary school student may submit a written
15 request, to the local educational agency, that
16 the student’s name, address, and telephone list17
ing not be released for purposes of paragraph
18 (1) without prior written consent of the parent.
19 Upon receiving such request, the local edu20
cational agency may not release the student’s
21 name, address, and telephone listing for such
22 purposes without the prior written consent of
23 the parent.

Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post hates the teachers’ union. It hates the union so much that it blames the union for whatever it doesn’t like. Today, the Post says the massive opt out in New York was controlled by the union. Imagine that: the parents of 220,000 children take orders from the union. Wow, who knew that parents were so easily manipulated?


As the Post sees it, the union doesn’t want teachers to be evaluated at all, so they pulled the puppet strings and the parents did as the union bosses told them. The stronghold of the union is New York City, where the number of opt outs was minuscule. Why didn’t the opt out movement succeed where the union was strongest?


Note to the editorial board of the New York Post: Please meet with the leaders of New York State Allies for Public Education. Let them explain to you why they led the opt outs.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166,814 other followers