Archives for category: Opt Out

Fred Smith was the testing expert at the New York City Board of Education for many years. After he retired, he became a relentless truth-teller about the flaws of standardized testing and the clever means of distorting the stats to produce the desired results. He currently acts as an unpaid advisor to opt-out parents.

Smith sent this article from 2007 that shows how Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein played games with the data, in this case blaming “immigrant kids” for a drop in test scores.

Mayor Bloomberg and his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, have reaffirmed that old Mark Twain saying about the three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.

Using a PowerPoint presentation filled with glitzy graphs and color charts, Klein reached a new low yesterday by attempting to blame a sharp drop in this year’s third-, fourth- and fifth-grade reading scores on thousands of immigrant pupils.

According to the chancellor, the drop in the lower grade scores was solely because of the federal government’s new requirement that all children classified as English-language learners, or ELLs, must take the regular state tests after being in the country just one year.

Because of that requirement, some 30,000 more ELLs took the state test this year than in 2006, Klein said, and their lower scores dragged down overall city results.

Fred Smith was outraged when he heard Klein’s explanation. Smith, you see, spent three decades analyzing tests for our city’s school system, so he knows a thing or two about how chancellors paint the prettiest picture for the public.

“They never told you that back in 2005, during the mayoral race, the school district quietly increased the number of exemptions for ELL kids and then claimed a record boost in scores,” Smith said.

In 2009, with Bloomberg’s fellow billionaire Meryl Tisch, in charge of the New York Board of Regents, test scores in the city went through the roof. After the mayoral primary election was safely past, the Regents commissioned a report by professors Daniel Koretz and Jennifer Jennings showing that the test questions had become familiar, leading to score inflation, and that the dramatic rise was not real.

Also, in an amusing turn of events, New York City won the Broad award in 2007 as the most improved urban district, right before the NAEP gains were released, showing that the city had made no gains on NAEP.

In 2010, Jennifer Medina of the New York Times wrote about the perils of over reliance on standardized tests and how it affected New York City in particular. 

She wrote:

When New York State made its standardized English and math tests tougher to pass this year, causing proficiency rates to plummet, it said it was relying on a new analysis showing that the tests had become too easy and that score inflation was rampant.

But evidence had been mounting for some time that the state’s tests, which have formed the basis of almost every school reform effort of the past decade, had serious flaws.

The fast rise and even faster fall of New York’s passing rates resulted from the effect of policies, decisions and missed red flags that stretched back more than 10 years and were laid out in correspondence and in interviews with city and state education officials, administrators and testing experts.

The process involved direct warnings from experts that went unheeded by the state, and a city administration that trumpeted gains in student performance despite its own reservations about how reliably the test gauged future student success.

It involved the state’s decision to create short, predictable exams and to release them publicly soon after they were given, making coaching easy and depriving test creators of a key tool: the ability to insert in each test questions for future exams. Next year, for the first time, the tests will not be released publicly.

It involved a national push for numbers-based accountability, begun under President George W. Bush and reinforced by President Obama. And it involved a mayor’s full embrace of testing as he sought to make his mark on the city, and then to get re-elected.

“They just kept upping the stakes with the scores, putting more pressure on the schools but not really looking at what it all means,” said Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University who has worked with the city’s Department of Education to help improve struggling schools.

New York has been a national model for how to carry out education reform, so its sudden decline in passing rates may be seen as a cautionary tale. The turnaround has also been a blow to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his chancellor, Joel I. Klein, who despite warnings that a laserlike focus on raising scores could make them less and less reliable, lashed almost every aspect of its school system to them. Schools were graded on how much their scores rose and threatened with being closed if they did not. The scores dictated which students were promoted or left back, and which teachers and principals would receive bonuses.

Even now, the city believes that the way it uses the tests is valid. The mayor and the chancellor have forcefully defended their students’ performance, noting that even after the changes this year, student scores are still better than they were in 2002. They have argued that their students’ progress is more important than the change in the passing rate, and that years of gains cannot be washed away because of a decision in Albany to require more correct answers from every student this year.

The test scores were even used for a new purpose this year: to help determine which teachers should receive tenure.

“This mayor uses data and metrics to determine whether policies are failing or succeeding,” said Howard Wolfson, the deputy mayor for government affairs and communications. He also helped run Mr. Bloomberg’s re-election campaign in 2009, using the city’s historic rise in test scores to make the case for a third term. “We believe that testing is a key factor for determining the success of schools and teachers.”

“Under any standard you look at,” he added, “we have improved the schools.”

But given all the flaws of the test, said Prof. Howard T. Everson of the City University of New York’s Center for Advanced Study in Education, it is hard to tell what those rising scores really meant.

“Teachers began to know what was going to be on the tests,” said Professor Everson, who was a member of a state testing advisory panel and who warned the state in 2008 that it might have a problem with score inflation. “Then you have to wonder, and folks like me wonder, is that real learning or not?”

New Generation of Tests

The problems that plagued New York’s standardized tests can be traced to the origin of the exams.

In 1996, New York set about creating tests for fourth and eighth graders as a way to measure whether schools were doing their jobs. A precursor to the widespread testing brought about by Mr. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, the tests replaced more basic exams that had been given in the same grades, which simply determined whether students needed remedial instruction. (The city had also given its own tests for many years.)

Teachers pushed back, saying they could gauge their students’ performance better than any mass-produced tests could. “There was a lot of resistance from throughout the education community to having the tests,” said Alan Ray, who was the chief spokesman for the State Education Department in the 1990s and in 2000, and retired this year after overseeing data for the office.

But education officials in New York, and many other states, were coming to the conclusion that some measurement system, no matter how limited, was necessary.

The officials sought advice from dozens of educators across New York to figure out what the tests should encompass, Mr. Ray said. Teachers and principals asked that the standards be specific, to make it clear what they were expected to teach at each grade level, and superintendents pleaded to keep the tests relatively short so that students would not spend days filling in bubbles. The state obliged both requests.

The decision to keep the tests narrow and short — the fifth-grade math test, for example, had 34 questions this year — would have a lasting impact, said Daniel Koretz, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who specializes in assessment systems. The same types of questions would be trotted out every year, he said.

“In many cases you could not write an unpredictable question no matter how hard you tried,” Professor Koretz said. He oversaw the study of New York’s tests that led to the state’s conclusion that they had become too easy to pass.

The state also continued making tests public after they were administered. Coupled with the questions’ predictability, the public release of the tests, which started long before the nationwide accountability movement, provided teachers with ready-made practice exams….

A Mayor Chases Results

The state tests’ flaws would not become evident for years. But by 2001, the tests had a champion.

During his first campaign, Mr. Bloomberg said that education was his top priority. He pledged to take control of the city’s public schools, then under the supervision of the Board of Education, which had been ridiculed for budget troubles and stagnant academic performance.

Projecting the image of a bottom-line-oriented, pragmatic businessman, Mr. Bloomberg latched on to test scores as a clear way of seeing just how well students were doing.

“If four years from now reading scores and math scores aren’t significantly better,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a radio interview in 2001, “then I will look in the mirror and say that I have been a failure. I’ve never failed at anything yet, and I don’t plan to fail at that.”

After Mr. Bloomberg persuaded the Legislature to give him control of the schools, he appointed Mr. Klein, a former Justice Department lawyer and media executive, as his chancellor. Mr. Klein was seen as a technocrat who was eager and able to produce tangible results, the kind that could be measured.

Scores in the city and state were on their way up. In 2004, for example, the proportion of fourth graders in the city meeting math standards increased to 68 percent, up 16 percentage points since 2001. Only 42 percent of eighth graders met that mark, but that was still a significant improvement from just a few years earlier. By 2009, that rate would jump nearly 30 points.

“What is encouraging is that for two or three years in a row now, the tests have gone in the same direction — up,” the mayor said on a radio show in October 2004. “So there’s reason to believe we’re headed to the correct place.”

In 2003, Mr. Bloomberg ended the practice of “social promotion” in certain grades, requiring students performing at the lowest levels on the tests be held back unless they attended summer school and showed progress on a retest. That year, Mr. Klein released a list of 200 successful schools, the only places where teachers would not have to follow the citywide math and English curriculums. The list was primarily based on test scores.

More and more of the mayor’s educational initiatives were linked to the scores. They were used to help decide which schools should be closed and replaced with new, smaller schools. The new A-through-F grading system for schools was based primarily on how their students improved on the tests. Teachers and principals earned bonuses of up to $25,000 if their schools’ scores rose. Teachers’ annual evaluations and tenure decisions are partially dependent on test results.

Each new policy was met with denunciations from the teachers’ union or from education experts like Diane Ravitch. Ms. Ravitch, a supporter of standardized testing when she was an adviser to the Clinton and Bush administrations, became one of the biggest critics, arguing that schools were devoting too much time to the pursuit of high scores.

“If they are not learning social studies but their reading scores are going up, they are not getting an education,” Ms. Ravitch said in 2005, as the mayor coasted to re-election.

The mayor and chancellor dismissed these criticisms as the hidebound defenses of an old, failed system devoid of meaningful standards. But some questions were also being raised by people close to the administration.

In the Education Department headquarters on Chambers Street, some officials argued that the A-through-F system of grading schools should incorporate not only the English and math tests, but also the science and social studies exams given by the state. “We wanted to draw this as broadly as possible,” said a former school official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid publicly disagreeing with Mr. Klein.

But after months of running models and tweaking formulas, Mr. Klein decided to stick with the two core subjects. After all, he often argued, if students could not master essential math and English skills, it would be impossible for them to grasp other concepts.

Dr. Noguera, the N.Y.U. education professor and adviser to the city, applauded Mr. Klein for creating a grading system that rewarded improvement from year to year so that schools in poor neighborhoods had the same chance of achieving a good grade as those in wealthier areas.

But it also was risky, Dr. Noguera said. “That got schools fixated on how to raise scores, not looking for more authentic learning,” he said.

Dr. Noguera expressed his views publicly and to some of Mr. Klein’s deputies, but never directly told the chancellor, he said.

Mr. Klein said in recent interviews that while the tests were imperfect, they were still the best measurements available for a school system that previously had no yardsticks. They also were not the only signs proving the city had been making progress, he said: On more difficult federal tests given to a sample of fourth and eighth graders, the city had steadily improved.

And the city’s main goal, he said, was not simply giving out laurels for students’ scoring 3s (“proficient”) and 4s (“advanced”) on the state tests.

Instead, its system of school grades and teacher incentives gave considerable weight to scores that showed improvement from year to year at all levels.

“Nobody else was doing this,” Mr. Klein said. “We never said it was good enough to get to passing and just stay there.”

In 2006, the state added tests for the third, fifth, sixth and seventh grades, in order to align with the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Scores jumped in 2007.

There were improvements at every grade level across the state and in New York City, where 65 percent of all students met state standards in math, an improvement of eight percentage points in one year.

“I’m happy, thrilled — ecstatic, I think, is a better word,” Mr. Bloomberg said at the time. “The hard work going on in our schools is really paying off.”

After Mr. Bloomberg’s first full term as mayor, the new scores seemed to ratify his claims of success. They also raised more alarms.

As a superintendent in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, Kathleen Cashin had seen several schools improve throughout the early part of the decade. But when she saw the sudden jump, she said, she was shocked.

“I said to my intimate circle of staff, this cannot be possible,” Ms. Cashin recalled. “I knew how much effort and how much planning any little improvement would take, and not all of these schools had done any of it.”

But Ms. Cashin, who retired in February, held her tongue at the time. Asked why she did not take up her concerns with Mr. Klein or his deputies, she said, “I didn’t have their ear.”

A Proposal for a Fix

The following winter, Professor Koretz, of Harvard, and Professor Everson, of CUNY, who was a member of a state testing advisory group, sent a memo to state education officials.

“Research has shown that when educators are pressured to raise scores on conventional achievement tests, some improve instruction, while others turn to inappropriate methods of test preparation that inflate scores,” they wrote in the Feb. 5, 2008, memo. “In some cases, the inflation of scores has been extreme.”

The researchers proposed to devise a kind of audit. While tests tended to be similar from year to year, they would add to each exam some questions that did not resemble those from previous years. If a class performed well on the main section of the test but poorly on the added questions, that would be evidence that scores were inflated by test preparation. If a class performed well on both, the researchers wrote, that teacher might have methods worth emulating.

In addition, they wrote, such a system would give teachers “less incentive to engage in inappropriate test preparation and more incentive to undertake the much harder task of improving instruction.”

State education officials, the professors said, did not give them a hearing.

The 2008 results showed even more large gains — 74 percent of city students were deemed proficient in math, an increase of nine points in one year; and the city’s passing rate in reading was now 58 percent, up from 51 percent two years earlier. Statewide, the passing rates jumped to 81 percent in math and 69 percent in reading.

Professor Koretz and Professor Everson wrote another memo in September 2008, again proposing to create a way to make test results more reliable. But the idea went nowhere….

The city’s Department of Education constantly mines test score data for patterns to show where improvement is happening and where it is needed. In 2008, it noticed an incongruity: Eighth graders who scored at least a 3 on the state math exam had only a 50 percent chance of graduating from high school four years later with a Regents diploma, which requires a student to pass a certain number of tests in various subjects and is considered the minimum qualification for college readiness.

The city realized that the test results were not as reliable as the state was leading people to believe.

Mr. Klein and several of his deputies spoke by phone with Merryl H. Tisch, the vice chancellor of the Board of Regents, and Mr. Mills, trying to persuade them to create a statewide accountability system similar to the city’s, one that gave improvement at least as much weight as the score itself.

The state said it would consider moving to such a system, but would need more time.

Neither the city nor state publicly disclosed the concerns about the scores. By then, students across the state were preparing for the 2009 tests, filling in bubbles on mock answer sheets, using at least three years of previous state tests as guides.

The scores arrived in May, and with them, the bluntest warning yet.

Just before the results were released, a member of the Regents named Betty Rosa called Ms. Tisch, who had recently become chancellor.

Ms. Rosa, who had been a teacher, principal and superintendent in the Bronx for nearly three decades, said the unprecedented high scores simply seemed too good to be true. She suggested the unthinkable: the scores were so unbelievable, she said, that the state should not publicly release them.

“The question was really are we telling the public the truth,” Ms. Rosa said in a recent interview. Ms. Tisch, she said, relayed that she, too, found the scores suspicious, but that it would be impossible to withhold them. “It was like a train that was already in motion and no way to stop it,” Ms. Rosa said.

The English test scores showed 69 percent of city students passing. Mr. Bloomberg called the results “nothing short of amazing and exactly what this country needs.”

“We have improved the test scores in English,” he continued, “and we expect the same results in math in a couple of weeks, every single year for seven years.” Four weeks later, it was announced that 82 percent of city students had passed the math tests.

Because of the widespread improvement in the scores, 84 percent of all public schools received an A in the city’s grading system, something Mr. Klein said he later regretted. This year, the city limited the number of A’s to 25 percent of schools.

The 2009 numbers came out as the mayor was trying to accomplish two goals: to persuade the Legislature to give the mayor control of the schools for another seven years; and to convince city voters that he deserved a third term.

Mr. Bloomberg’s opponent, Comptroller William C. Thompson, had once been president of the Education Board.

“Mike Bloomberg changed that system,” said one of the mayor’s campaign advertisements. “Now, record graduation rates. Test scores up, violence down. So when you compare apples to apples, Thompson offers politics as usual. Mike Bloomberg offers progress.”

In his debates, Mr. Bloomberg hammered home the theme. “If anybody thinks that the schools were better when Bill ran them, they should vote for him,” he said in one face-off. “And if anybody thinks they’re better now, I’d be honored to have their vote.”

Indeed, according to exit polls, 57 percent of those who said education was their primary concern voted for Mr. Bloomberg, who won the election by a five-point margin.

Mr. Wolfson, the deputy mayor and 2009 campaign strategist, said the mayor had no regrets about focusing on the exams as a matter of policy, and during the election.

“What’s the converse?” he said. “The converse is that we don’t test and we have no way of judging success or failure. Either you believe in standards or tests, or you don’t — and life is not like that. There are tests all the time.”

Ms. Tisch, in releasing the 2009 test results, had not heeded Ms. Rosa’s radical request. But the very day she put out the English test results, she began openly acknowledging doubts about the scores, irking the mayor and chancellor, who privately seethed that she was seeking to undermine their success. “As a board, we will ask whether the test is getting harder or easier,” she said.

Although the Regents did not immediately opt to create an entirely new test, Ms. Tisch and David Steiner, the new education commissioner, asked Professor Koretz, who had been rebuffed in previous requests, to analyze the ones that were in use. His conclusion — and that of another researcher, Jennifer L. Jennings — was that the tests had become too easy, and hence the scores were inflated. That led the State Education Department to raise the number of correct answers required to pass each test.

The state intends to rewrite future tests to encompass a broader range of material, and will stop publicly releasing them.

“We came in here saying we have to stop lying to our kids,” Ms. Tisch said in a recent interview. “We have to be able to know what they do and do not know.”

Bloomberg was first elected to the mayoralty in 2001. There was a two-term limit. He ran again in 2005, for what should have been his second and last term, and won easily. In 2009, he used his vast resources to persuade the City Council to vote to give him and themselves a third term. And that he is how he qualified to run for a third term and used his education record as a reason to be re-elected.
Now, after all this investment in testing, test prep, interim assessments, etc. what were the results?
New York City has shown no gains in reading on NAEP from 2003-2019, in either fourth or eighth grades.
Make of it what you will.
If Bloomberg is the Democratic candidate against Trump, I will vote for him.
But please don’t believe the boasting about the New York City education miracle.
It never happened.
An update on some of the individuals mentioned in the New York Times’ 2010 article. Betty Rosa is now Chancellor of the State Board of Regents. Kathleen Cashin is a member of the Board of Regents. Meryl Tisch is now on the board of the State University of New York (which has the power to authorize new charter schools, including those of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy chain). David Steiner–now a professor at Johns Hopkins University– served for two years as State Commissioner, during which time he approved Mayor Bloomberg’s choice to succeed Joel Klein as NYC Chancellor, a retired magazine publisher named Cathie Black, who lasted three months. Steiner was also in charge of the State Education Department when it won a Race to the Top grant and committed the state to using student test scores to evaluate teachers, increasing the number of charter schools, and adopting the Common Core standards. These changes, in turn, created the parent-led Opt Out movement, in which parents refused to let their children take the state tests and grew to represent 20% of the eligible students. John King succeeded David Steiner and eventually replaced Arne Duncan in the last year of President Obama’s second term. When Joel Klein stepped down, he hired a Department of Education vendor named Wireless Generation and created a technology company called Amplify. Rupert Murdoch bought Amplify and invested a reputed $1 billion; newspaper stories predicted that Amplify would usher in a new age of hardware and software. However, the biggest sale of Amplify tablets and software was made to Guilford, North Carolina, purchased with Race to the Top funding; it turned into  a disaster when chargers melted and other problems emerged. Guilford canceled the contract. Murdoch, having lost about $500 million, put the company up for sale. Laurene Powell Jobs bought it, and Amplify is now part of her Emerson Collective, selling “personalized learning.” Klein works for an online healthcare company called OSCAR, co-founded by Joshua Kushner, brother of Jared Kushner.

This is a book you will want to read if you are a parent, a teacher, a teacher educator.

Opting Out: The Story of the Parents’ Grassroots Movement to Achieve Whole-Child Schools is an essential addition to your bookshelf.

It was written by Professor David Hursh of the University of Rochester and parents leaders of the New York Opt Out movement Jeanette Deutermann, Lisa Rudley, and Hursh’s graduate students, Zhe Chen and Sarah McGinnis.

Together they explain the origins and development of the one of the most significant parent-led reactions against high-stakes testing and in favor of education that is devoted to the full development of children as healthy and happy human beings. The media liked to present the Opt Out movement as a “union-led” action, but that was always a false narrative. It was created and led by parent activists who volunteered their time and energy to save their children from test centric classrooms and wanted a “whole-child” education that helped their children become eager and engaged learners.

David Hursh has written and lectured about the assault on public education and the dangers of high-stakes testing.

https://www.waikato.ac.nz/wmier/news-events/prof-david-hursh-on-the-takeover-of-public-education

University of Rochester Meliora Address (2013): High-stakes testing and the decline of teaching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIQu2Hh_YkI

Keynote address: New York State as a cautionary tale (2014). New Zealand union of primary teachers and administrators. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hW4vZGsLiL4

The parent co-authors are leaders of the New York State Opt Out movement, primarily through their role in New York State Allies for Public Education, which has organized hundreds of thousands of parents to say no to excessive and pointless testing, whose only beneficiaries are the big testing corporations.

The parents of the Opt Out movement are a stellar example of the Resistance that is bringing an end to this current era of child abuse and test-driven miseducation.

I was happy to endorse the book and am pleased now to recommend it to you.

 

 

https://www.nysape.org/nysape-pr-opt-remains-strong.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 9, 2019
More information contact:
Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228; nys.allies@gmail.com
Kemala Karmen (917) 807-9969; nys.allies@gmail.com
New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

Opt-Out Remains Strong Despite the former Commissioner’s Scare Tactics; Room Continues to be Made for Whole-Child Initiatives

The New York State Education Department released this year’s grades 3-8 test scores and opt out numbers at the end of August. Once again parents and educators searched in vain for justification for the millions of dollars spent on a testing system that has done little to improve student success or restore confidence and trust in our state’s education department.

After decades of testing, there remain significant gaps in results between Black and Hispanic students and their White and Asian peers, between economically disadvantaged and economically advantaged students, and between students with disabilities and nondisabled students. Continuing for another few decades on the same exact path of expensive and excessive tests hoping for different outcomes is a disservice to children and our society.

Although the outgoing Commissioner was able to slightly reduce the rate at which parents refused participation in the assessments, she accomplished this through fear and intimidation, urging district administrators to use whatever tactics necessary to increase participation rates. We documented these abhorrent tactics as we learned about them, here. In the end, these tactics didn’t work as most schools did not meet the 95% participation rate.

“The gap is still growing after far too many years. It’s time to own this and admit that annual testing in two subjects with draconian stakes attached haven’t helped the kids whom the tests are supposed to help. Instead let’s look to create real ways to help kids in underserved groups — with proven actions, backed by research. Let’s take the enormous taxpayer funds spent on destructive testing and invest instead in what we know works: food programs, after school care and programs, small classes, fully staffed school health offices—and so much more,” says Lisa Litvin, parent, former President Hastings-on-Hudson Board of Education and former Co-President Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA

Kemala Karmen, a founding parent member of NYC Opt Out, adds, “Not only does the so-called achievement gap remain, the whole notion is controversial and backward. To quote Ibram X. Kendi, historian and author of How to Be an Antiracist, ‘What if different environments actually cause different kinds of achievement rather than different levels of achievement? What if the intellect of a poor, low-testing Black child in a poor Black school is different—and not inferior—to the intellect of a rich, high-testing White child in a rich White school? What if the way we measure intelligence shows not only our racism but our elitism?’ Our state would do better to focus on ensuring that all students start with equal opportunities rather than annually trot out test scores that merely reflect an uneven starting line.”

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters points out that “with all the considerable money and time spent on these tests, and the anxiety they have provoked in children, the state hasn’t been able to devise a valid or reliable assessment that gives any useful information either to districts or teachers about how to improve instruction or the conditions of learning.”

“Consider the harm to our students with special needs and to English language learners,” reasons Jamaal Bowman, principal of CASA Middle School (Bronx, NY) and candidate for Congress for the 16th district. “Well over half are considered ‘far below grade level’ each and every year. These tests are flawed single measures that do not consider the complexity and diversity of intelligence. Our kids are so much more. Let’s create a system of progressive pedagogies like Montessori and Reggio Emilio that helps them to prove it.”

Jeanette Deutermann, parent of two, and founder of Long Island Opt Out said, “The New York State Assembly bowed to unexplained pressure exerted by the NYSUT Leadership and blocked legislation–that the Senate had already passed–that would have codified protections for students who opt out. In doing so, they failed to ensure even the most basic protections for student and parental rights; ALL parents have the right to decide whether to allow their children to participate in high-stakes testing without fear of district retaliation. We urge NYSED and the Board of Regents to use the opportunity for a new Commissioner and new direction to move away from test-based education policies, and call upon elected officials to act now to protect students and parents who choose to opt out in EVERY district across New York State.”

Jake Jacobs, co-administrator of the NY Badass Teachers Association, sums it up: “New York’s testing policy is still highly flawed and scientifically invalid for high-stakes decisions. Students are trained to guess at answers they don’t know, eliminating bad choices and then basically just gambling. Each year, thousands of scores fall right on the borderline of passing/failing, meaning lucky or unlucky guesses determined all these outcomes. Because the tests also do not account for home circumstances, from private tutors to neglect or abuse, they are not a reality-based method for diagnosing or improving obstacles to learning. Most absurd of all, the state is still using test scores in math or ELA in the evaluations of teachers of other subjects. I teach art, but have had math scores in my annual evaluation since 2013 as part of district-based ‘compliance’ agreements. And as ever, the formulas used to calculate the scores are secret, as is the process by which the proficiency levels are set, aka the ‘cut scores.’ Who cares about minor fluctuations in scores when the tests are still unverifiable, still grossly inaccurate, and still ignoring the factors that matter most?”

Please click on these links to download the 2019-2020 Opt Out Letter:
English version & Spanish version

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition of over 70 parent and educator groups across the state.

 

The New York Legislature is considering legislation to affirm that parents have a right to opt out of state testing, and that school officials have an affirmative duty to inform them of their rights. The current testing regime is invalid and unreliable. It does not inform instruction. It has no purpose other than to demoralize students and teachers. Please add your name in support of this legislation. 

The New York State Allies for Public Education urges you to:

Write your Legislators to sign onto the OPT OUT bill

TAKE ACTION NOW by supporting Senator Jackson and Assemblyman Epstein by getting your own NYS Senator and Assembly Member to show their support by signing onto the proposed legislation as a co-sponsor. This is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for years and there is no time to lose. Senate bill S5394 and Assembly bill is forthcoming.

Families HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE the New York State grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments. Nevertheless, and as we have seen over the past several years and throughout the state, too many schools disregard that right, fail to communicate it clearly, or worse, take punitive measures against children when their parents exercise their rights.  

Simply enter your name & address, and the form will automatically generate emails addressed to your specific elected officials. PLEASE SEND your letters TODAY and share with anyone else who wants to see our rights and our children’s rights respected!

Thank you for all of your continued advocacy to protect children and bring whole child policies to your schools!  

 

 

Corporate Reformers in Oregon joined with their allies in the business community to kill a bill (HB 2318) called “Too Young to Test,.” Modeled on laws in New York and New Jersey, the bill would have prohibited mandatory standardized testing from pre-k through grade twoMost of the testimony favored the bill.

The purpose of HB 2318:

Prohibits State Board of Education from requiring, and school districts from administering, certain assessments to students enrolled or preparing to enroll in prekindergarten through grade two. Makes exception for assessments administered for diagnostic purposes as required under state or federal law.

The Corporate Reformers and the business community killed it. 

No one, the Corporate Reformers insist, is ever too young to test.

They also focused on killing a bill to strengthen Oregon’s opt-out law.Then they killed a bill to strengthen Oregon’s opt out law. (SB 433). Here is their letter of opposition to SB433.

They claim they need the test scores so they can effectively advocate to meet student needs. No one should be allowed to opt out of testing, no matter how young.

Apparently they don’t know that standardized testing is highly correlated with family income and family education. They should read Daniel Koretz’s The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better.

Stand for Children was part of the pro-testing lobby. SFC is heavily funded by the Gates Foundation and other pro-testing, pro-privatization foundations. Stand for Children advocates for high-stakes testing, charter schools, and test-based evaluation of teachers. Dana Hepper of “The Children’s Institute” also lobbied against these bills and in support of standardized testing of kindergartners; she previously worked for Stand for Children. In addition to endorsing the joint statements, here is her testimony supporting mandated standardized tests for children of all ages and opposing opt out.

They say they need the scores so they know what children need.

BUT, THE CORPORATE REFORMERS HAVE THE TEST SCORES NOW AND THEY ARE NOT ADVOCATING FOR STUDENT NEEDS.

Teachers in Oregon are on strike to advocate for smaller classes, nurses, mental health counselors, librarians, and social workers.

Where are the corporate reformers?

Fighting for more standardized testing, even for kindergartners! Fighting parents’ right to opt their children out of standardized testing!

Are they joining the teachers to demand more investment in schools? No.

Are they on the picket lines demanding smaller classes? No.

Are they lobbying for increased funding for nurses, social workers, librarians, and mental health counselors? No.

 

 

In recent years, the New York State Education Department and many school districts have threatened and tried to intimidate parents and students who wanted to opt out of state testing. The historic U.S. Supreme Court decision Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) protects the right of parents to make decisions about their own children. This decision is apt in the current environment, where the state has decided that every child must sit for a pointless standardized test, without regard to their parent’s wishes.

That decision protected the right of Catholic schools to exist at a time when they were under threat of closure. The Court affirmed that parents could choose the school their child attended, though it did not say that the public was bound to pay for private choices. The key point in the decision was that ” The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

Now Senator Robert Jackson, himself a historic figure in the fight for fair funding for public schools, has introduced legislation to protect students and parents and to prevent school officials from bullying them if they wish to opt out of state testing. Students are not the mere creatures of the state; their parents “have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare them for additional obligations,” including the obligation to resist injustice and official stupidity. As Senator Jackson affirms, schools should inform parents of their right to opt out and should not use pressure, threats or rewards to compel them to take state tests if they choose to not take them in protest against their meaninglessness and possible harm to the student’s education.

This statement was released today by the Alliance for Quality Education in New York City.

 

Despite years of advocacy, court mandates and promises from politicians, the new NYS budget plan once again locks in educational inequality. And while politicians refuse to cough up $1.6 billion to begin fully funding our schools, the state spends over $1.5 billion a year on its high stakes standardized testing program.

For years, Albany has told parents that standardized tests will help close the “achievement gap” in our schools – but year after year of testing, while refusing to fully fund our schools, has not closed this gap, which is an “opportunity gap” and NOT an “achievement gap.”

The truth is, you won’t heal the inequities that plague our schools by administering something that is toxic, and these high stakes tests are toxic, for our kids, and for our schools. You want to close the gap? Start by funding our schools.

While Albany keeps expecting our schools to do more with less, while the tests lay the foundation for closing and privatizing more neighborhood public schools, we keep calling, writing, traveling to Albany, meeting with legislators, rallying and petitioning. We keep working within a system that won’t respond to our needs.

What do we do with a system that won’t respond?

We break it. Albany has ignored us for years. We succeed when we make ourselves impossible to ignore.  Enough is enough. We are joining the hundreds of thousands of parents and educators that have had deep concerns on the corrosive effects of these tests.

Math exams administration dates are May 1–2, with make-up exams on May 3, and May 6–8. You have a right to opt out with no consequence to your child. The right to refuse the state tests in encoded in ESSA, the federal law that governs education policy, which explicitly recognizes that right.

As we know from history, the power of a boycott is huge. If Albany won’t comply with a court ruling to fully fund our schools, why should we give Albany what they want? Join the hundreds of thousands of New York State families who making their voices heard in a most powerful way, and consider joining boycott the state tests this week. A sample opt out letter is here and questions can be sent to nycoptout@gmail.com.

 

Our blog poet, self-identified as SomeDam Poet, wrote the following poem about testing, opting out, and New York State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. Reading the poem requires cultural literacy about arcane education jargon.

 

“The Mywayman” (after “The
Highwayman”, by Alfred Noyes)

PART ONE
THE VAM was a torrent of darkness
among reformy goals
The school was a ghostly galleon tossed
upon rocky shoals
The Test was a ribbon of Pearson tying
the Common Core,
And the Mywayman came riding—
Riding—riding—
The Mywayman came riding, up to the
school-house door.

He’d a half-cocked plan in his forehead,
a shill of Gates for his spin,
A coat of the cleanest whitewash, and
breaches of law within;
Though served with a Lederman wrinkle
(the suits were up to his thigh!)
He rode with a jeweled twinkle,
His ed-u-bots a-twinkle,
His Tests and VAMs a twinkle, under the
New York sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and
clashed in the dark school-yard,
And he tapped with his Test on the
shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and
who should be waiting there
But the Test Lord’s VAM-eyed Super,
Elia, the New York Super
Planting a bright red “Opt Not!!” inside
the “Opt out” lair.

And dark in the dark old school-yard a
rusty swing-set creaked
Where Diane the Blogger listened; her
curiosity piqued;
Her eyes were filled with sadness, her
worry was plain as day,
For she loved the public schoolhouse,
The American public schoolhouse
Alert as can be she listened, and she
heard the Governor say—
“Hear this, my well-paid Super, I’m after a prize to-night,
And I shall make Opt-out parents fold
before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry
me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though
parents should bar the way.”

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce
could hide his rage ,
He tried to mask what the case meant,
but face read like a page
As the franks and beans from the dinner
were mingling with his bile
He cursed its taste in the moonlight,
(Oh, putrid taste in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his reign in the
moonlight, and galloped away to Long
Isle.

PART TWO
He did not come in the dawning; he did
not come at noon;
And out o’ the tawny sunset, before the
rise o’ the moon,
When the Test was a Möbius ribbon,
looping the Coleman lore,
An Opt-out troop came marching—
Marching—marching—
The parents all came marching, up to
the Governor’s door.

They said no word to the Test Lord, they
mocked the test instead,
And they nagged the Super and grilled
her about everything she’d said;
All of them knew what the case meant,
with Lederman at their side!
There were parents at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
Elia could see, through the window, the
road that he would ride.

They had tried to get her attention,
‘bout many an invalid test;
They had written a letter to meet her, to
discuss the VAMs and the rest!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they
dissed her.
She heard the Governor say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though
parents should bar the way!

She twisted her claims for the parents;
but all their Not!s held good!
She waved her hands at the figures, she
said were “misunderstood!”
She stretched and strained credibility,
and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,

The tip of one finger touched it! The
statute at least was hers!
The tip of one finger touched it; she
strove no more for the Test!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the
statute above the rest ,
She would not risk a hearing; she would
not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the
moonlight throbbed to the Gov’s refrain
.
The quote of laws! Had he heard it? Her quote of NY laws?;
Her quote of laws — from the distance?
The “Rights of Parents” clause?
Down the ribbon of Möbius, over the
brow with his bill,
The Mywayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The parents looked to their stymying!
She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot,
in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face
was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; her
heart, it missed a beat
Then her fingers moved in the
moonlight,
Her pen-stroke shattered the moonlight,
Shattered the tests in the moonlight,
sealing the Gov’s defeat

He turned; he spurred to the West; he
did not know who blinked
Bowed, with her head o’er edict,
drenched with her own ink!
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his
face grew grey to hear
How Elia, the New York Super,
The Test Lord’s well-paid Super,
Had watched for the Gov in the
moonlight, determined his future there

Back, he spurred like a madman,
shrieking a curse to the sky,
With Elia caving behind him and his
testing vanquished nigh!
Wide-read- were his slurs on the
Twitter; wide-spread was the parents’
vote,
When they opted out on the test day,
In droves and droves on the test day,
And he lay in the flood on the test day,
with a bunch of ‘rents at his throat

And still of a winter’s night, they say,
when the VAMmers roam like trolls
When the school is a ghostly galleon
tossed upon rocky shoals,
When the Test is a ribbon of Pearson
tying the Common Core,
A Mywayman comes riding—
Riding—riding—
A Mywayman comes riding, up to the
school-house door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs
in the dark school-yard,
And he taps with his Test on the
shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and
who should be waiting there
But the Test Lord’s VAM-eyed Super,
Elia, the New York Super
Planting a bright red “Opt Not!!” inside
the “Opt out” lair.

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After months of threats and bribes and warnings, the New York State Education Department released a statement affirming that students have the right to opt out of state testing.

This is a victory for the Opt Out movement, the parents, superintendents, principals, and teachers who have said that the exams are flawed and of novalue to students.

This is the statement:

 

As students in grades 3 through 8 take New York’s state assessments this week, we appreciate the efforts of school leaders to ensure parents have all information to make a decision about the assessments that is right for their family. We would like to remind school leaders of the importance of honoring requests received by parents to opt their children out of the exams. While federal law does require all states to administer state assessments in English language arts and mathematics, parents have a right to opt their children out of these exams. To be certain, the vast majority of schools honor parents’ requests to have their children not take the tests; however, we have also heard of isolated but troubling reports of parents’ requests being ignored.
We thank New York’s parents, teachers, and school administrators for their support and understanding as we continue to work together in the best interest of all students.

Numerous studies have shown that students do better on paper and pencil tests than on computer tests. For the record, the tests are a massive waste of time. But students often get lost online. They scroll up and down. They lose their place and their train of thought. Online testing is so flawed as to be useless.

Some states, like Tennessee, have had computer testing ruin the whole testing process.

Yet MaryEllen Elia clings ferociously to computer testing because she just plain loves it. She believes in computer testing no matter how much it fails.

Parents are sick of it. 

Many know that it wastes students’ time, steals instructional time, and wastes millions of dollars.

Wise parents Opt Out.

Computer testing is so yesterday.