In a major story today in the New York Times, Governor Cuomo of New York is said to be backing down from his rigid stance on evaluating teachers by test scores. This represents a huge victory for the parents of the 220,000 students who opted out of state testing last spring.

 

Kate Taylor, the reporter, says that Cuomo may not only reduce the role of testing in teacher evaluation, but eliminate it altogether, which has been the main demand of parents. Parents have been outraged to see their teachers rated by their children’s test scores, which has made the testing more important than any other aspect of schooling. They are outraged to see their school’s resources diverted to test prep and time stolen from the arts, physical education, and everything but the tested subjects of reading and math.

 

[PLEASE NOTE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES’ STORY THAT THE REPORTER REFERS TO NAEP PROFICENCY AS “GRADE LEVEL.” THIS IS WRONG. NAEP PRIFICENCY IS NOT GRADE LEVEL; IT IS EQUIVALENT TO AN A OR A-. NAEP “BASIC” IS A CLOSE APPROXIMATION OF GRADE LEVEL. MOST NEW YORK STUDENTS ARE BASIC OR ABOVE ON NAEP. ]

 

But beware, parents. This may be a hoax, a temporary moratorium intended to deflate the Opt Out Movement and cause it to disappear. Do not rest until the law is changed to delink testing and teacher-principal evaluations. The new federal law–not yet enacted–eliminates the federal mandate that Duncan imposed without authorization by Congress. New York may now permanently eliminate this punitive, anti-educational requirement.

 

New York parents: As Ronald Reagan said,  “Trust, but verify.” I suggest turning that saying around: “Verify, then trust.” Meanwhile, to quote an even older saying, keep your troops together and “keep your powder dry.”

 

The leaders of Long Island Opt Out and the New York State Allies for Public Education have proven to be effective, organized, strategic, and articulate. They have attended every meeting of the Regents, of legislative hearings, of Cuomo’s Common Core task force, and show up wherever they can inform other parents and policymakers. Their dedication and relentlessness made a difference.

 

I travel the country, and parents everywhere are in awe of the organized parents who opted out in New York. One of every five children did not take the tests, and that number could only go up.

 

Let’s remain watchful and wait to see what happens. In the meanwhile, this is reason for joy on the day before Thanksgiving.

 

Democracy works. It can even overcome billionaires when the public is informed, alert, and organized.