Archives for category: Parent Groups

The parent leaders of New York state’s powerful Opt Out movement are taking the next step in their campaign to protect their children and their schools: they are supporting challengers to their own state legislators.

The stronghold of the Opt Out movement is Long Island, the counties of Nassau and Suffolk, where about 50% of all children in grades 3-8 refused to take the state tests. As it happens, Long Island is represented by Republicans who strongly support charter schools (but not in their own districts!), high-stakes testing, Common Core, and test-based teacher evaluations.

The parents have had enough!

Test refusal forces have taken an interest in the race for the state’s 5th Senate District, and they’re using the organizing tools that have been effective in driving New York’s test opt-out movement to try to oust longtime incumbent Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino.

“We’re using all of our skills that we’ve learned over the last four years and we’re applying that to helping candidates who are going to advocate for us,” Jeanette Deutermann, administrator of Long Island Opt Out and co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, told POLITICO New York.

With the help of NYSAPE, an anti-Common Core coalition of parent groups from across the state, last spring more than 21 percent of the state’s approximately 1.1 million eligible third- through eighth-grade students refused to take the state standardized, Common Core-aligned math and English language arts exams.

The 5th Senate District, which includes portions of Nassau and Suffolk County, falls in the heart of the test refusal movement.

About 55 percent of public school students in Suffolk County opted out of exams in spring 2016, making the state’s eastern most corner a test refusal hot spot. About 43 percent of students opted out in Nassau County during that period.

Marcellino, who first won his seat in 1995, is the current head of the Senate Education Committee. His opponent, Democrat Jim Gaughran, has turned that position against Marcellino, running a campaign largely focused on education, setting it apart from most other races in the state.

Gaughran, the Suffolk County Water Authority chairman, has hosted listening tours on community education concerns throughout the district. Gaughran is announcing the end of his tour Wednesday, which included 25 events, at least one in each of the 17 public school districts in the Senate district, according to a news release provided to POLITICO New York.

Parents have no money to give, but they are supporting Gaughran with door-to-door campaigning and a social media campaign. They understand now after four years of organizing that they must fight for better leadership in Albany, where decisions affecting their children and their schools are made with no parent input, no evidence, no expertise, no knowledge. Petitions and rallies can be easily ignored. Real change requires better representation.

Read more:

Despite threats and bribes, despite warnings and cajoling, the Great Opt Out Movement of New York maintained its momentum

About 22% of the eligible students in the state did not take the mandated tests.

Opt out numbers in New York City were low because test scores are needed for admission to middle schools and high schools.

But in parts of the state, like Long Island, about half the students didn’t take the tests.

The New York State Education Department released the test results on a Friday afternoon, a time widely known as the best way to bury news. See here for a local story. The story in New York Politico is here.

Good news for New York City: Its reading scores increased to the state average. This should make Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina happy, since they bet on helping schools instead of closing them.

Big news! The National PTA has joined forces with the Data Quality Campaign! What does this mean for your child? Nothing good. They have agreed that all children are data points, whose data can be mined by corporate entities. Who are those guys (as Butch Cassidy once asked)?


Peter Greene explains it here. He explains what all of this means, but only the National PTA can explain why they have joined forces with the Inside-the-Beltway Crowd, who see children as abstractions.

Despite a major effort by state and federal officials to threaten or cajole parents to let their children take the tests, despite a media campaign by corporate reformers to persuade parents that testing is good, the New York opt out movement is back again. A Twitter site created by reformers (@optoutsowhite) mocked the opt out as being the white suburban moms that Arne Duncan ridiculed. A parent (@africaisacountry) responded with #optoutmademewhite.

Carol Burris reports here on the first returns.

The effort to stop opt out failed, she writes.

“The campaign had little, if any, effect. In some schools, only a handful of students took the test. Eighty-seven percent of the students in Allendale Elementary School outside of Buffalo, New York opted out. Eighty-six percent of test eligible students in the Long Island district of Comsewogue refused the test, and 89 percent of students in Dolgeville in the Mohawk Valley said “no.”

“Long Island continues to be the hotbed of testing resistance. Newsday reported that 49.7 percent of all Long Island students refused the test Tuesday even though the Newsday editorial board has repeatedly urged parents to have their children take it. Patchogue-Medford Superintendent Michael J. Hynes characterized Opt Out as “a thunderclap” sent to Albany. Seventy-one percent of the students in his district refused the Common Core tests.

“There is also evidence that the Opt Out movement is gaining ground with parents of color, with many no longer willing to buy the spin that taking Common Core tests will improve their children’s life chances.

“Ninety-seven percent of the more than 1,000 students who attend Westbury Middle School in Nassau County are black or Latino, and 81 percent are economically disadvantaged. On Tuesday, 50 percent of those students were opted out of the tests by their parents. Last year, the number was 2 percent.

“Last week, Westbury parents filled a forum sponsored by Long Island Opt Out in order to learn how to refuse the test. When a district official tried to convince those in attendance that testing helps improve educational opportunities for minority students, one mother pushed back. “Don’t you dare tell parents that these tests will help them… these tests tear our kids down. They don’t lead to success.”

Jamaal Bowman is the principal of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, a highly regarded middle school in the Bronx. Ninety nine percent of his students are black or Latino and 84 percent are economically disadvantaged. Last year, only 5 of his students refused the test. On Tuesday, 25 percent opted out.”

Jaime Franchi of the Long Island Press has established a reputation for in-depth reporting on education. She does it again, with a comprehensive analysis of New York’s opt out movement.

After the historic opt out of 2015, where some 240,000 students did not take the tests, Governor Cuomo made a concerted effort to tamp down parent anger. He appointed a task force to make recommendations about the Common Core standards and tests, which John King had botched. He promised that the tests would have no stakes for students or teachers, at least for a while. The state commissioner took steps to alternately warn and placate parents.

Despite the efforts to court parents, the opt out leaders decided they were being played. They thought the moves by Cuomo were a facade. And they determined to continue their fight in 2016.

No one knows whether there will be more or less or the same number of opt outs. What matters is that parents across the state realize that there is power in numbers. They cannot be ignored.

New York State Allies for Public Education–an alliance of 50 parent and educator organizations across the state and a leader of opt out–issued a press release calling for passage of four critical bills that would reduce the stakes attached to standardized tests. NYSAPE successfully organized the boycott of state tests last year that shook up the state’s policymaking machinery, leading Governor Cuomo to form a task force to propose measures to fix the standards and tests. In addition, the leadership of the New York Board of Regents has changed hands, with a friend of the parent groups now Chancellor. Other states and parents groups could learn from NYSAPE, which is on the case 24/7.



More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

Calling on the Assembly & Senate to Pass Legislation to Repair Public Education

On March 20th Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky sponsored four bills that seek to offer relief to the children of New York. At a crowded press conference Assemblyman Kaminsky unveiled four legislative bills that seek to bring common sense back to education in New York State.

Assemblyman Kaminsky’s bills are an important start that will fix the damage done to education in New York State. NYSAPE and its coalition members back Assemblyman Kaminsky’s plan to decouple teacher evaluations from test results, end over-testing, empower parents, create needed alternative pathways to graduation for students, and make education about our children.

We are calling on all New Yorkers to contact their Assembly and Senate representatives to support Assemblyman Kaminsky Education legislation by taking action here:
In summary here is what the four legislative bills say:

A09626- Immediately decouple teacher evaluations from test results and direct the Board of Regents to establish a committee to research and develop an alternate, research-based method for teacher evaluations, which will ensure that students and teachers both have better experiences in the classroom.

A09578 – Repeal State Takeover of Failing Schools and put the school reform process back in the hands of local educators, parents, and other stakeholders who are in the best position to understand the specific needs of the school district.

A09584 – Reduce testing by directing the Board of Regents to establish a committee to shorten the length of tests and find ways to increase their transparency. Additionally, tests would be given to students, parents and teachers so that they can be used to improve the manner in which teachers teach and students learn.

A09579 – Create an alternate pathway to graduation by establishing a Career and Practical Education (CPE) pathway to a high school diploma which would provide a valuable alternative for students who do not wish to take – or are unable to pass – the Regents exams. By teaching practical life skills and training students for a career, a CPE pathway will better prepare all New York students for a future following high school.

“As we work towards meaningful changes in our education system, our laws must be corrected to allow for this positive change in direction for our children’s education. This legislation will allow for a move towards research based policies that parents and educators have fought so hard for. The legislature, Board of Regents, and State Education Department, have identified the significant problems that have grown out of misguided education reforms. This legislation is an absolute necessity to right the wrongs of the Education Transformation Act and bring child centered education back to our classrooms.” – Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island parent and leader of Long Island Opt Out.

“What Assemblyman Kaminsky has done here is about our children and something that parents have been advocating for. As a public educator, and parent, I am grateful that he is seeking solutions that are about and for our children. I am calling in all lawmakers to join with Assemblyman Kaminsky in righting a ship that has sailed grossly off course.”
– Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public education teacher and parent.

“Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky’s bill proposals aim to put children at the center of public education policy. His bills will provide the autonomy and flexible school communities must have to meet the diverse needs of all children, while creating a system that moves away from punitive and draconian policies toward a more nurturing and supportive infrastructure. I strongly support Assemblyman Kaminsky’s Bill proposals.” – Jamaal Bowman, father, and principal of CASA Middle School in the Bronx.

“It is imperative to pass this package of legislation that will reverse the laws that have stolen our classrooms and to make sure every child in New York has access to graduating with a high school diploma.” – Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

This roving opt-out billboard can be seen driving around New York.  If you see it, give a honk of support. The truck and billboard are sponsored by New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of 50 parent and educator groups. NYSAPE led the historic opt out movement last spring, which persuaded the families of some 220,000 or more students to opt out of the state tests. State officials were stunned. Governor Cuomo created a task force to help him get out of the mess, which caused his poll numbers to plummet. The state Board of Regents split over the issues of high-stakes testing, and the chancellor of the Regents announced her resignation. A supporter of the parents who opted out is likely to be chosen as the new chancellor in a few days.


Parents will opt out again in 2016 because despite the stunned reaction of public officials, very little has changed. The testing goes on. The absence of useful information continues. The tests are still too long. And NYSAPE’s truck is rolling again.

Jessica McNair, a board member of New York State Allies for Public Education–a coalition of fifty parent and educator groups–explained why the opt out movement will not back down this spring. In 2015, about 20% of all eligible students refused the state Common Core tests. That was about 240,000 students. That shook up the state leadership, who have been busily devising ways to appear to placate the angry parents of New York.


Bottom line: Despite promises and threats, nothing has changed for the children. “Shortening” the tests translates into dropping one question. Making the tests untimed for students with disabilities mean these children will be tested even longer than before.


Testing will continue to be the central driving force in the schools.


Opt out will not disappear. It will become the norm, if NYSAPE is successful.

According to press reports, the New York Board of Regents will select veteran educator Dr. Betty Rosa as Chancellor at its meeting next week.  Rosa was born in Puerto Rico and educated in New York City. She has been a teacher, a principal, and a superintendent in the public schools in the Bronx. She has taught English language learners and children with disabilities.


Rosa was a member of the dissident group of Regents who questioned high-stakes testing, test-based teacher evaluation, the Common Core, and other aspects of the corporate reform movement. With her real-world experience, she brings a fresh perspective to the board that oversees education in the state.


She has the strong support of parent leaders in the opt out movement.



I accidentally posted this when I meant to edit it and add the links. The links are now inserted.


Press release *** For immediate release

Parents and educators stand together against growing test stress in children



March 8, 2016



Contacts: Julie Woestehoff, Interim Executive Director, Parents Across America, 773-175-3989

Laura Bowman, leader of PAA-Roanoke Valley (VA), 540-819-6385

Danielle Arnold-Schwartz, leader of PAA- Suburban Philadelphia (PA), 215-498-2549



Today, Parents Across America announces the endorsement of its position paper, “Parents Stand up Against Test Stress,” by such prominent educators as Alfie Kohn, Jonathan Kozol, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige (list follows).

PAA has also contacted the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics asking that they investigate our concerns that high-stakes standardized testing has become a health hazard for our nation’s public school children.

According to Dr. Isabel Nuñez, Associate Professor in the Center for Policy and Social Justice, Concordia University Chicago:

“High-stakes testing is doing children grievous mental and emotional harm. Parents Across America has gathered overwhelming evidence of the destructive psychological impact of test anxiety. For your children’s sake, read and be outraged!”

Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor in the department of Psychology, Boston College, added:

“The evidence is overwhelming that our national mania for testing–and for so much time in school and at schoolwork–is damaging the physical and psychological health of our children. I appreciate the work of Parents Across America and sincerely hope that the educational powers that be start to listen. What we have today is, essentially, state-mandated child abuse.”

Testing in the early years, which is strongly opposed by early childhood professionals, is taking a toll. According to Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige,
“As we see testing increasingly edge out play and active learning in classrooms for young kids, we also see more and more children who don’t like school, who feel way too much pressure, who don’t want to go to this place that feels so uncomfortable and out of synch with who they are and what they need.”



A research paper recently published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests a correlation between the increased academic pressure on young children and the significant increase in ADHD diagnoses (Brosco).



Coping skills, “stealth” assessments not the answer


Much of the literature on test anxiety focuses on how to help children cope with the stress. In contrast, PAA believes the cause of the stress itself must be addressed. No child should be exposed to prolonged, intense stress, which can inhibit brain function and take a toll on mental health.


PAA is not simply asking for an end to high-stakes, one-shot testing. Parents are demanding that no child be harmed in the assessment process. We know that test publishers and education entrepreneurs are already developing new ways to label, sort and profile students through high-tech devices now taking over classrooms. This may not create as much stress but carries other dangers such as:



Constant collection of student data via online websites, apps, and programs without parental notification.



Embedded or “stealth” assessments – students will not even be aware if their work is being used for high-stakes purposes.



A significant increase in the amount of screen time children are exposed to – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a two hour per day screen time limit for children.


PAA has many other concerns about the misuse and overuse of standardized tests which we have detailed in previous position papers and fact sheets (see, for example, “Testing and ESEA,” and “Why More Standardized Tests Won’t Improve Education”).


Our full position paper with recommendations and endorsements can be found here.


Our one-page fact sheet on test stress is here and a downloadable pdf version of our position paper is here.


To learn more about testing or PAA, please visit
or email us at

Interim Executive Director

Parents Across America
Our children, our schools, our voices