John Thompson, historian and teacher, writes that parents have shaken up the education landscape:

“February has always been a time when blizzards keep blowing across the nation but, too often, it now marks the end of meaningful learning in our classrooms. Long before Spring arrives, the test prep season begins, followed by the annual testing ordeal. During the last few years, however, the grassroots Opt Out movement has risen to the occasion, and fought to restore authentic teaching and meaningful learning to public schools.

The refusal of parents and students to participate in the test, sort, reward, and punish season has knocked the corporate reform movement back on its heels. It has undermined the imposition of Common Core and value-added evaluations, which were top-down mandates enforced by High Stakes Testing. The assertion of families’ democratic rights to choose engaging and respectful instruction, and reject soul-killing teach-to-the-test, has predictably prompted some reformers to retreat, while it has angered others. The second response by blood-in-their-eyes reformers may prove to be one of their most consequential mistakes. They are inviting an even more effective counter-attack by the Opt Out movement.

In 2009 and 2010, the RttT, the SIG, and an alphabet soup of other social engineering initiatives essentially imposed the full test-driven, competition-driven reform agenda on the entire nation. The non-educators who dreamed up Common Core, value-added evaluations, mass charterization, the mass “exiting” of teachers, and the resulting focus on nonstop remediation of students’ weakness, while ignoring their strengths, often were oblivious to the inherent contradictions in their dictates. Regardless of what they didn’t know, and when they didn’t know it, their mandates were so divorced from reality that they exposed accountability-driven, market-driven reform to an overwhelming political backlash. Those few reformers who are grounded in classroom realities must now know that their school improvement hypotheses are doomed.

The more interesting – and probably the more important – reaction by corporate reformers has been a consequence of their angry (and ego-driven?) response to defeat. Apparently blaming educators for failing to recognize what they believed was the beauty of their incentives and disincentives, and resenting patrons who fought against the testing toxicity that flowed down on their children, many elite reformers have thrown a huge temper tantrum. In doing so, they unintentionally revealed the true nature of their desire to micromanage schools. By their angry outbursts, elites show how oblivious they are to the feelings and interests of regular people.
Rather than go to school on the failure (or at best the modest benefits of hugely expensive experiments) of attempts to transform Newark, Memphis, New Orleans, and other systems, “astroturf” reform think tanks doubled down on discrediting objective scholars and journalists who documented results that were underwhelming at best. Next Steps in Newark: Superintendent Chris Cerf Responds to Dale Russakoff’s ‘The Prize’ – Education Post Then, the Broad Foundation, apparently seeking revenge on Los Angeles educators and elected officials, proclaimed its intention to charterize half of the LAUSD.

Most inexplicably, the post-Duncan USDOE has sought to intimidate the Opt Out movement. The attempt by the outgoing Arne Duncan and John King to bully opponents is likely to be the greatest political mistake of a reform movement that is frenetically striking out against stakeholders who disagree with them.
Apparently forgetting the myriad of ways that data-driven policies have failed to improve schools, the USDOE threatens to turn its numbers-driven club on states that do not squelch the Opt Out Movement. The federal government sent intimidating letters to 13 states, warning that they could lose funding if the test-taking rate falls below 95%. For instance, after 20% of New York students refused to take bubble-in tests, State Superintendent MaryEllen Elia received “one of the most strongly-worded letters I’ve seen” from the USDOE demanding compliance. Elia claims, “I don’t know what the end result is going to be,” but most of us understand the result that is almost certainly inevitable. Parents and students will get their collective backs up even more, and the Opt Outs will grow stronger. 
As Jeanette Deutermann of New York Opt Out says, “The Feds gave the states a great little ‘bullying toolkit’ which basically says, ‘these parents aren’t afraid of us. Make sure they’re afraid of YOU.'” But, because it is impossible to determine which students refuse the test, opt outs undermine the little reliability and validity remaining in the attempt to use test score growth to sanction individuals. Moreover, because opt outs occur at different rates in various districts across states, it’s hard to see how states facing resistance can force compliance in regard to their accountability schemes.

States can respond to federal overreach by passing legislation, or twisting themselves into pretzels by reinterpreting current laws in order to punish Opt Outers. But, in addition to outraging voters, the get-tough tactic will cut both ways. The attempt to coerce parents into complying will raise awareness among the public, and as Carol Burris explains, it will invite legislative battles and demands for gubernatorial vetoes. Moreover, Opt Outers will study their states’ laws and inform parents of their rights in regard to protecting their children. For instance, Tennessee parents are now being briefed on the reasons why they should “refuse” permission for their children to be tested, rather than use the words, “Opt Out.”

Corporate reformers have shown themselves remarkably incapable of playing out the chess game and anticipating the predictable consequences of their heavy-handed policies. Let’s just say a state manages to prohibit formal Opt Outs and refusals. How will they enforce their decree? Will they actually punish students who publicly defy them? That would just encourage the more intractable problem of dealing with students who discretely push back by filling in test scan sheets by bubbling-in stars, triangles, and other patterns on them. Maybe a government can force students to fill out tests, but would it attempt to punish students who invalidate the test by marking-in answers at random?

At minimum, attempts force compliance will double the ways in which students and parents resist – by openly refusing the tests and by sabotaging the tests by bubbling improperly. That will double the unknowns, making it even more impossible to pretend that their test growth guess-timates are rational. This will create a geometrical increase in the difficulty in defending the reliability and validity of their models in court. 
Emeritus Regents Professor Gene Glass says it best in “Would Horace Mann Tweet?” Glass closes his summary of failed teach-to-the test, corporate reform with a review of the Opt Out movement’s accomplishments.

He concludes:

I contend that what academics could not do, what the American Educational Research Association could not do, was done by citizens on social media. The voice of thousands, nay millions, of people spoke louder to politicians than the voice of Pearson-backed ALEC or the billionaire boys.

After the testing dragon is slain, we can further build og the democratic energy sparked by the Opt Out movement. New York is already taking the lead, shifting gears from beating back testing to influencing future policy. This is just one emerging manifestation of the new Opt Out Spring. Now it can turn from successful protest to spurring a new humane, nurturing, and democratic era of school improvements.