Archives for category: Parents

What is competency-based education? Twenty or thirty years ago, it referred to skill-based education, and critics complained that CBE downgraded the importance of knowledge.

Today CBE has a different meaning. It refers to teaching and assessment that is conducted online, where students’ learning is continuously monitored, measured, and analyzed. CBE is invariably susceptible to data-mining of children, gathering Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that can be aggregated and used without the knowledge or permission of parents.

The first time that I heard of CBE (although it was not called that) was in a meeting in August 2015 with The State Commissioner of Education in New York, MaryEllen Elia, after her first month in office. I organized a discussion between Commissioner Elia and several board members of NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education), the group that created New York State’s massive opt out that year (and again this year). It was a candid e change, and at one point, Commissioner Elia said that the annual tests would eventually be phased out and replaced by embedded assessment. When asked to explain, she said that students would do their school work online, and they would be continuously assessed. The computer could tell teachers what the students were able to do, minute by minute.

This kind of intensive surveillance and monitoring is very alarming. Once teaching and testing goes online, how can parents say no?

A group of bloggers wrote posts last week to express their concern and outrage about the stealth implementation of CBE. The lead post warns that opting out of annual tests is not enough to stop the digitized steamroller. It’s title is: “Stop! Don’t Opt Out. Read This First.” The author argues that parents are being deceived.

The blogger warns:

Schools in every state are buzzing this year with talk of “personalized” learning and 21st century assessments for kids as young as kindergarten. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its innovative pilot programs are already changing the ways schools instruct and assess, in ways that are clearly harmful to our kids. Ed-tech companies, chambers of commerce, ALEC, neoliberal foundations, telecommunications companies, and the government are working diligently to turn our public schools into lean, efficient laboratories of data-driven, digital learning.

He or she recounts the ways the technocracy responds to parents’ concerns and fears. The new way, they will say, is “personalized learning.” Don’t worry. We know what is best. When the parent objects that the test results come back too late to inform instruction, the technocrat says, “embedded instruction provides real-time feedback. No problem.” Parent asks, what about the stress? Technocrat: “Children won’t even know they are being tested.”

The blogger doesn’t actually say to parents, “Don’t opt out.”

Quite the contrary:

“Opt out families nationwide are encountering these same arguments, as though a pre-set trap is being sprung. Great. So opting out of end-of-year testing isn’t the silver bullet we hoped it would be. Now what?

Now that we know the whole story, go ahead and opt out of the end of the year tests. No child should suffer through them. But we have to expand our definition of opting out, to protect our children from data mining and stop the shift to embedded assessments and digital curriculum.

In addition to opting out of end-of-year testing, there are other important steps we need to take to safeguard our children’s access to human teachers and to protect their data, their vision, and their emotional health. There is no set playbook, but here are some ideas to get us started.

1. Opt your child out of Google Apps for Education (GAFE).

2. If your school offers a device for home use, decline to sign the waiver for it and/or pay the fee.

3. Does your child’s assigned email address include a unique identifier, like their student ID number? If yes, request a guest log in so that their data cannot be aggregated.

4. Refuse biometric monitoring devices (e.g. fit bits).

5. Refuse to allow your child’s behavioral, or social-emotional data to be entered into third-party applications. (e.g. Class Dojo)

6. Refuse in-class social networking programs (e.g. EdModo).

7. Set a screen time maximum per day/per week for your child.

8. Opt young children out of in school screen time altogether and request paper and pencil assignments and reading from print books (not ebooks).

9. Begin educating parents about the difference between “personalized” learning modules that rely on mining PII (personally-identifiable information) to function properly and technology that empowers children to create and share their own content.

10. Insist that school budgets prioritize human instruction and that hybrid/blended learning not be used as a back door way to increase class size or push online classes.

Parents, teachers, school administrators, and students must begin to look critically at the technology investments we are making in schools. We have to start advocating for responsible tools that empower our children to be creators (and I don’t mean of data), NOT consumers of pre-packaged, corporate content or online games. We must prioritize HUMAN instruction and learning in relationship to one another. We need more face time and less screen time.

Every time a parent acts to protect their child from these harmful policies, it throws a wrench into the gears of this machine. The steamroller of education reform doesn’t stand a chance against an empowered, educated army of parents, teachers and students. Use your power to refuse. Stand together, stand firm, be loud, and grab a friend. Cumulatively our actions will bring down this beast!”

This just in from the parent advocacy group, Parents Across America:

Contact: Laura Bowman, PAA-Roanoke Valley: 540-819-6385
Julie Woestehoff, PAA interim executive director: 773-715-3989

Our Children @ Risk

Parents raise alarm about EdTech’s harmful effects on children’s
academic, intellectual, emotional, physical and social development

Echoing the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report, Parents Across America (PAA)
today declares, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose
on America the takeover of public education by digital technology that
threatens our children’s health and well-being, captures their private
data, and undermines the best elements of their education, we might
well view it as an act of war.”

PAA has spent extensive time looking into recent writing and research
that raise red flags about the impact of the EdTech explosion on our
children. This high-pressure movement has brought a mishmash of digital
devices and online and other pre-packaged programs into our schools,
where they are promoted as “personalized,” “competency-based,”
“student-centered,” or “self-directed” learning, terms which we refer
to together as EdTech.

Today, PAA released a position paper and a series of reports, including
a 35-page background paper, detailing some of the many threats to
children’s health and well-being, parental control, family privacy, and
the quality of teaching and learning by this latest effort of corporate
reformers to profit from our children’s education and undermine
democratic public schooling.

PAA’s executive director, Julie Woestehoff, explains, “What we have
found out about the EdTech push alarms us, and should alarm any parent.
First of all, there is actually very little research addressing the
many news ways that EdTech is being used in our schools — our children
are truly being used as guinea pigs. What we do know about children and
screen time is based in part on new studies and in part on previous
research into children’s use of television, video games and computers,
which can help us anticipate some of EdTech’s health effects. And
EdTech’s teaching and learning track record is not positive. Yet
corporate reformers and the new federal education law, the Every Child
Succeeds Act, or ESSA, are investing heavily in EdTech and increasingly
pressuring its widespread use.”

Leader of PAA’s chapter in Roanoke, VA, Laura Bowman, says, “We are
speaking out for balanced, healthy classrooms for our children. We
strongly oppose the push to increase student screen time, replace
teachers with packaged lessons delivered by digital devices, and
continuously test students, data-mining the results. We are very
concerned that the massive and growing use of EdTech is displacing
valuable elements of schooling without providing clear benefits, and
threatening our children’s right to a healthy and educationally-
appropriate school environment.”

PAA is not against the appropriate use of technology in schools. Just
as the group opposes standardized test misuse and not the tests
themselves, they challenge technology use that reduces schooling to a
data-mining computer game, and not technology itself. We know that our
children need to master technology, and we acknowledge that parents
must work harder to monitor their children’s use of technology at home.
But we also strongly feel that schools, school districts and states
must become far more cautious, diligent, transparent and accountable
about their technology decisions.

PAA believes that, in the face of strong pressure from the parental
opt-out movement, and criticism that the misuse and overuse of
standardized tests harms children and their education, corporate
reformers and “Big Testing” have changed their tactics.

These education profiteers are promoting even more lucrative testing
and teaching strategies, mostly tied to the Common Core State Standards
and the PARCC or SBAC national tests.

These products help Big Testing continue to control the curriculum and
access vast amounts of student data. Meanwhile, students are spending
increasing hours glued to computer screens and other digital devices
which leaves less time for interacting with other children, adults or
their own imaginations, and exposes them to new dangers.

We have prepared a set of informational materials for parents covering
PAA’s specific concerns about EdTech’s:

-harmful effects on children’s mental and emotional development,

-negative impact on student intellectual and academic growth,

-damaging physical effects,

-depersonalization and other ways of undermining the educational

-questionable value and effectiveness,

-continuous testing of students, often without obtaining consent from
or even informing students or parents,

-threats to student data privacy, and

-hugely lucrative benefits for private companies.

Parents must be alerted to these potential risks, and be prepared to
challenge and, if necessary, opt out of school-based technology that
may be harmful to our children.

Based on these and other concerns, we call on legislators and education
policy makers to consider our list of recommendations found at http://p

Please see our documentation paper ( and
reports ( more detailed informat
ion, references and background.

I am sorry that I frequently ask for your financial support, but crowd-sourcing is the best way for parents and public education activists to make their case. Unfortunately, we do not have the deep pockets of the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, or hedge fund managers. If 1,000 people who read this appeal and others each send a gift of $10 or $20, it will make a difference.

Colleen Wood, a parent of students in Florida public schools and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, asks for your help for parents who are in court fighting the state’s third grade retention law:

Friends – I know we are pulled in so many different directions, but I’m asking for your help in Florida.

Florida has a mandatory retention policy for 3rd graders who do not pass the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment). Statute spells out good cause exemptions and there are ways for districts to look at a portfolio of the students work all year, and to promote. There are also ways for the districts to fight parents, to force them to have their child take some standardized tests.

This group of 3rd grade parents refused and are now suing the state to have their students promoted to 4th grade. These are students whose teachers have testified they are on grade level, but certain districts are still refusing to promote them to make a point.

It is insane that we have to sue to do what is right, but we do. And 3rd grade retention is a central tenant of Jeb Bush’s education reform policies, even though we know there is no sound research supporting automatic retention. Discrediting it in court would be a huge step to undoing the damage he has brought to our state.

In court yesterday, Mary Jane Tappen, the Vice Chancellor for all Florida public schools said under oath that a student could have F’s all year and get a 2 on the FSA and be promoted. Or they could have A’s all year, not score at least a 2 on the FSA and be retained. Out loud. She said that out loud. District lawyers argued that report cards are meaningless. At least we’re getting them on record.

But here’s where we need your support:

financially –

Click here to support 3rd Grade Parents v. FLDOE by cindy Hamilton

David v Goliath: Parents prepare to challenge the FL DOE This past spring, hundreds of families consciously chose to participate, though only minimally, in the Third Grade FSA and their children, therefore, received no test scores. Many students (including many who failed the FSA) were promoted

donate here if you are able. The districts are now petitioning for a change in venue and want to have the case heard in each individual district, which would make the costs prohibitive to most parents. And FLDOE is burying the lawyers in paperwork to continually drive up the costs.

share on social media – please link to the donation page, use #180DaysCount or link to any stories. Here are a few:

Parents challenge Bush-era third-grade retention law in nine-hour hearing in state court

TALLAHASSEE – Parents whose children were retained after ‘opting out’ of standardized testing challenged a Jeb Bush-era state law requiring third graders to pass state reading tests in order to be promoted during a nine-hour long hearing in state court on Monday.

I am not a plaintiff in this lawsuit, but feel like these parents are doing what we have been asking and we need to provide all the support we can, in all the ways we can, as often as we can.

Thank you!


A state court judge in Florida will soon issue a ruling that will either validate or refute parents’ right to opt their child out of state testing. The specific issue is the high-stakes third grade reading test; if students don’t pass it, they may be held back, even if their teacher says they are proficient readers.

A state judge is weighing a decision that could shake Florida’s education-accountability system following a marathon hearing Monday in Tallahassee.

After nearly nine hours of testimony and arguments, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers wrapped up a hearing on state and local policies for allowing students to move to the fourth grade but did not rule on a request that would allow about a dozen students across Florida to advance.

The practical effect of Gievers’ decision, and the appeals that are almost certain to follow, could either validate or shatter the “opt out” movement led by parents who say a state standardized test should not decide whether their children are allowed to move from third grade to fourth grade.

The parents of the students involved in the case told their children to “minimally participate” in the Florida Standards Assessment for third grade by filling in their names, breaking the seals on the tests and then refusing to answer any questions.

Those parents believe state law gives them the right to tell their children not to answer questions on the test. But while the law spells out ways to advance that don’t require passing the assessment, the Florida Department of Education and school districts say that doesn’t give students the opportunity to refuse to take it.

Gievers, who seemed in an earlier hearing to sympathize with the parents, gave no clear indication of how she intended to rule on the request for an injunction.

“You’ve given me a lot to look at, and I plan to do this the right way,” she said.

But the hearing laid bare not only the legal questions at the heart of the case, but the philosophical ones: Is a report card based on a year’s worth of work a better measure of a student’s knowledge, or is an objective test the proper measure? Where is the balance between a parent’s right to control his or her child’s education and the state’s right to determine how to measure learning?

Two researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University, surveyed parents who opted their children out of state tests and confirmed what leaders of the test refusal movement have long asserted. Parents don’t opt out because they are controlled by unions. They don’t opt out because, as Arne Duncan once said, they are fearful that their child is not as smart as they thought.

“Teachers College unveiled the findings of Who Opts Out and Why?—the first national, independent survey of the “opt-out” movement—which reveals that supporters oppose the use of test scores to evaluate teachers and believe that high-stakes tests force teachers to “teach to the test” rather than employ strategies that promote deeper learning. The new survey also reports concern among supporters about the growing role of corporations and privatization of schools.

“For activists, the concerns are about more than the tests,” said Oren Pizmony-Levy, TC Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Education, who co-authored the study with Nancy Green Saraisky, Research Associate and TC alumna. “We were surprised that the survey reveals a broader concern about corporate education reform relying on standardized test-based accountability, and the increased role of ‘edu-businesses’ and corporations in schools.”

Who Opts Out and Why? also reveals that opt-out proponents oppose high-stakes, standardized testing because they believe it takes away too much instructional time.”

This is an instance where research confirms common sense.

Chalkbeat interviewed one of the authors of the study, who said:

It’s the breadth of the movement that’s noteworthy, explains Oren Pizmony-Levy, one of the report’s authors.

“It’s not just about the tests. They’re saying something bigger about the direction of education reforms in the U.S.,” Pizmony-Levy said. “It does bring together all sides of the political spectrum.”

The most common reason opt-out supporters cited for boycotting the tests was opposition to using test data to evaluate teacher performance, with 36.9 percent of respondents listing that as one of their top two reasons to support opting out (45 percent of the respondents work in education). That was followed by concerns over teaching to the test (33.8 percent), opposition to the growing role of corporations in schools (30.4 percent), fears that the tests cut into instructional time (26.5 percent), and opposition to Common Core standards (25.8 percent).

Roughly half of those surveyed self-identified as liberal, while nearly 18 percent identified as conservative.

The authors noted that there is some potential bias in the data because it depends on accurate self-reporting, and was disseminated electronically, which largely excludes those who don’t have internet access.

But Pizmony-Levy said the survey still begins to sketch out a more detailed profile of who opts out and why. (On the most recent math and English exams, 21 percent opted out across New York state, as did 2.5 percent in New York City.)

“I think what this is telling us is activists disagree with the current direction of education reforms [which include] … ideas about accountability from the business world,” he said. “They’re saying maybe there are other directions we should go.”

Florida has a harsh third grade retention policy. Students who don’t pass the third-grade state test must repeat the grade.

A few days ago, more than a dozen parents filed suit against the state for the arbitrary and capricious way this state was implemented in counties across the state. The parents opted their children out of the testing to protest the law.

“There is no rational governmental interest served by the defendants arbitrary and capricious decision to retain plaintiffs’ children because they opted out of standardized tests, but otherwise earned passing grades on their report cards and had no reading deficiencies,” the lawsuit reads.

The law is interpreted differently in different counties.

One Orange County plaintiff had a daughter who was on the honor roll, the suit said, but “is being retained in the third grade because of no FSA scores and because her teacher was not informed of the criteria for developing a student portfolio during the school year.”

In Sarasota County, one of the parents who is suing kept her child out of the state testing in third grade. The district said he had to repeat the grade, even though his work all year had been satisfactory.

However, the district changed course and decided to let the child go on to fourth grade with his peers, rather than subject him to punishment for opting out of the test.

Amy Frogge is a member of the Metro Nashville School board. She is a lawyer and a parent of children in the Nashville public schools. When she was first elected four years ago, the charter industry spent $125,000 in an effort to defeat her. At the time, she was running as a concerned parent who thought there was too much testing, and she was unaware of the battles behind the scene between privatizers and supporters of public schools. She was outspent 5-1, and yet she won. For the past four years, she has been an intrepid supporter of public schools and has helped to repel the rapacious charter movement. For her courage and dedication to children, she is on the honor roll of this blog.

In the election this past week, the “reformers” spent $150,000 to taker her out, and she won again, overwhelmingly.

She was attacked by the local newspaper and by mailers that smeared and defamed her. There were even “push polls,” in which voters were falsely told that Amy defended child molesters and pornographers. Amy has never had criminal clients, and she is not currently practicing law (her husband was a public defender). Other pro-public school candidates were targets of similar smear tactics. It was an amazingly dirty campaign, funded by the usual corporate types, which funneled their money through Stand for Children.

The people of Nashville gave a sound thrashing to Stand for Children and its dirty politics and dark money.

How did Amy do it? She mobilized parents to work as volunteers in her campaign. Stand for Children dubbed them “an army of moms.” Great name!

To see a picture of Amy and some of her “Army of Moms,” look at her Facebook page.

I made an error in reporting the Nashville election results. One of Stand’s pro-charter candidates, incumbent Sharon Gentry, was re-elected. However, another pro-charter incumbent, Elissa Kim, stepped down and her seat was won by former teacher Christiane Buggs. (Kim was until recently head of recruitment for TFA nationwide.) Buggs will be an ally of the pro-public school members. There are nine board members. Only three are strongly pro-charter.

A great night for Nashville public schools, and a great lesson about how parents can beat Dark Money.

About 21-22% of eligible students in New York refused to take the state tests. That’s 230,000 students. That is a popular uprising.

In some districts, more students did not take the tests than did. The county with the highest opt-out rate was Suffolk, the east end of Long Island. There are two counties on Long Island: Suffolk and Nassau: the average opt-out rate was 49.6% for both.

In some small school districts, opting out has become the norm. The one with the highest opt out is in upstate, rural New York. According to Politico:

“Herkimer County’s Dolgeville school system again takes the title for highest opt-out rate in the state with 89 percent of students opting out of ELA, the same percentage it had in 2015.

Dolgeville was followed by Consewogue (84 percent), Plainedge (79 percent), Rocky Point (79 percent), Patchogue-Medford (77 percent), Sayville (77 percent) and Eastport/ South Manor (76 percent).”

Secretary of Education John King wants to punish schools and districts that do not have a 95% participation rate. Long Island is a politically powerful section of New York. The parents are not afraid of King. They weren’t afraid of him when he was New York’s Commissioner of Education. He hopes the movement will fade away. It hasn’t.

Politico reports:

“It is unclear whether the schools or districts with the highest opt-out rates will be sanctioned. The movement comes at a time when the U.S. Department of Education, led by former state education commissioner John King Jr., is trying to increase sanctions for those who don’t meet participation requirements through regulations under the broad federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Under the new draft regulations, schools would face harsh penalties for not meeting the 95 percent participation requirements.

About 49.6 percent of third- through eighth-grade students didn’t take the ELA test on Long Island, the lowest participation rate in any of the state’s economic development regions. This was followed by 37.5 percent in the Mohawk Valley, 30.8 percent in Western New York, and 26.1 percent in the Mid-Hudson.”

The mass defiance of parents in New York raises questions: Can the state force parents to comply with its demands when there is no issue of health or safety involved? Can schools and districts be punished by the state for the actions of parents?

The New York State Education Department released the test scores for 2016 and warned that they were not comparable to previous years due to significant changes in the tests, then proceeded to declare that the scores had grown substantially over the previous year.

The New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), which led the opt out movement, reported that the opt rates continued to be high and even increased. The students who opted out in the eighth grade were no longer part of the testing cohort, but new students took their places. Despite threats and blandishments, parents of more than 200,000 students said no to the tests.

Here is NYSAPE’s statement:


More information contact:

Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;

Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228;

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

NYSED Declares Scores Not Comparable, Opt Out Grows Across State

This past Friday afternoon, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the results of the 2016 NYS Common Core 3-8 ELA and math results. Despite expensive ad campaigns from Gates-funded advocacy groups and the distribution of “Anti Opt-out” toolkits by Commissioner Elia aimed at persuading parents to opt in to state tests, the test non-participation rate increased from 20 percent last year to 22 percent.

As Chris Cerrone, a school board member and NYSAPE member from Western NY said, “Given Commissioner Elia’s public relation blitz across the state and all the interviews she did with the media, as well as all the money spent by the pro-Common Core groups, the increase in opt out numbers indicates that parents remain very concerned about the low quality of these tests and the direction of education in our state.”

An increase in test refusals were seen across the state, including in large urban districts like Buffalo and New York City. In only 5 percent of districts statewide –38 out of 686 — was the test participation rate at or above 95 percent for ELA and math. If the current proposed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regulations are adopted, this would mean that the state would have to punish the vast majority of schools by giving them low grades or imposing aggressive intervention plans. (see chart below)

“Despite the relentless and well-funded PR push back we received in the city, more and more parents are becoming educated on just how harmful standardized testing is for their children. The increase in opt-out is a significant win for immigrant families, students with special needs and students from low income households. Our grassroots approach is resonating with parents seeking true equity in public education,” said Johanna Garcia, NYC parent and Co-President of District 6 President’s Council.

“Overall, these exams not only demonize our students and teachers, but the entire city of Rochester. I will not allow my child to take an exam that does not accurately reflect her progress. I’m not against testing, but I am against tests with no educational value,” Eileen Graham, Rochester parent of 4th grader and founder of Black Student Leadership.

Long Island districts again this year opted out in large numbers, some as high as 84%. Many other districts also experienced over 50% of student refusing to take the tests. (see chart below)

Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent, the founder of Long Island Opt Out and a member of NYSAPE said, “The opt out movement continues to expand despite the aggressive campaign to thwart our efforts and marginalize our voices. Parents demand nothing short of a complete overhaul to our excessive testing system, a ban on the mining of sensitive personal data, replacement of flawed Common Core with research-based standards, and a permanent decoupling of evaluations from test scores.”

Despite their own warning that this year’s test scores could not be compared to last year’s because the tests were shorter and untimed, NYSED still claimed that increases in this year’s ELA scores over last year’s scores justified their continuing to implement the Common Core standards and Common Core aligned exams. These contradictory statements undermine NYSED’s credibility.

The reality is that without a more careful analysis of the tests themselves, their length, and the impact of giving them untimed, it is impossible to ascertain if achievement increased, decreased, or stayed the same as last year. In addition, the fact that so few schools and districts had a 95% participation rate also undermines their reliability.

“The fact that 95% of school districts in NYS did not meet the federal and state participation requirements significantly weakens the reliability and validity of test scores for accountability purposes. How can Commissioner Elia claim that these scores are valid or show any improvement in achievement,” asked, Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator, and Opt Out CNY founder.

“There is little doubt that parents will continue to exercise their right to refuse harmful state tests and right now it is imperative that Commissioner Elia and the Board of Regents advocate for a revision in the proposed ESSA regulations, or else face having to intervene in most of the schools in the state,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and BATs Executive Director

“Parents were very concerned when MaryEllen Elia was named Commissioner, due to her links to the Gates Foundation in Florida. Skepticism was withheld to give her the benefit of the doubt while changes were discussed. However, her continued failure to address the concerns of parents have only further eroded confidence in her leadership and in the State Department of Education,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

In response to increases in test refusal, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia attacked critics and claimed that parents refusing the state tests were unaware of “important” changes made to the tests. Bianca Tanis, Ulster County Public School parent and educator said, “The small changes and tweaks made by the NYS Education Department are simply not enough. Nothing has changed for the individual child and to suggest otherwise is just plain wrong.”

Said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters: “Between 2003 and 2009, the NY State Education Department engaged in rampant test score inflation, by making the tests and the scoring easier, without admitting this. After that, the bubble burst and the scores fell radically with the introduction of Common Core-aligned exams, when our Commissioner was intent on proving to parents their children and their schools were failing. I fear that state officials are still manipulating the scores for political ends. It is no wonder that New York parents do not trust these exams to give an accurate picture of their children’s learning.”

“NYSED must work more consistently with teachers, parents, and students, to create policy that supports whole child initiatives in every community. It’s tiresome to continue to sell our children and families short by engaging annually in narrow discussions about learning that only focus on ELA and mathematics, while continuing to neglect science, the arts, and civic engagement,” said Jamaal Bowman, Bronx public school educator and parent.

“Why would anyone support tests designed for over 60 percent of students to fail? If a teacher gave a test in her classroom where over 60 percent failed she would rightly question the validity of her test. This is insanity,” said Tim Farley, Hudson Valley principal and public school parent.

It is clear that the over-emphasis and misuse of test scores with questionable validity and no educational purpose continue to rob our public schools of valuable instructional time and resources. Until the leaders of public education in NYS begin to focus on closing the opportunity gap by addressing the inequitable resources in our schools and heed the demands of parents and educators for evidence-based and child-centered educational policies, the opt out movement will continue to grow.

2016 Test Refusal Analysis – Public School Districts

ELA Tests


# of districts – less than 95% participation


% less than 95% participation


# of districts – 95% or more participation


% 95% or more participation


Math Tests


# of districts – less than 95% participation


% less than 95% participation


# of districts – 95% or more participation


% 95% or more participation


Test Refusal increase from ELA to Math


# of districts


% of districts


Test Refusals by Percent Thresholds

% of Districts*

20% and over test refusals


30% and over test refusals


40% and over test refusals


50% and over test refusals


*Based on NYSED math test opt out figures

# of public school districts (includes big five): 686

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

Hillary Clinton’s choice for her running mate is Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia. Tim Kaine is one of the few people in American politics who has been elected mayor (of Richmond, Virginia), governor, and senator.

He is also a steadfast supporter of public education, even though he graduated from a Jesuit high school. His own children attended primarily black schools in Richmond. His wife is now Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina.

This is what he wrote three years ago about his life as a public school parent in Richmond.

Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education. Here are seven changes I’d like to see:

It’s about the individual!

Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs.

Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.

Early childhood education works

My daughter was able to attend a year of high-quality pre-K in our city schools. This experience made me a believer, and it’s one of the reasons why I greatly expanded pre-K for at-risk 4 year olds when I was governor.
The research is powerful — if you invest in high-quality programs that coordinate with K-12 curricula and have mandatory teacher standards, the gains from early education are lasting. It’s also important that we focus on coordinating investments made in early childhood programs — such as Head Start — to ensure we are effectively using our funding, eliminating any waste and bolstering the structure of our education system.

The article goes on to add other recommendations, including the importance of arts education and the necessity of reducing testing.

His article ended like this:

Finally, a note of gratitude. Our kids were blessed to have many wonderful teachers. There were some weak ones, but RPS teachers were mostly solid, some spectacular and a few life-changing for our children. As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers.

Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession. We need a robust debate about how to value and attract good teachers.

Better yet, Tim Kaine’s wife Anne is a long-time champion for children and for public schools. Reformers will not find an ally in her. She cares about children and has a deep commitment to improving their lives.

As a schoolgirl in 1970, she was on the front lines of the fight to desegregate Virginia’s public schools. Holton is the daughter of Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton (R), who championed integration in a state that was known for its vigorous efforts to resist it. To drive home this point, he sent his daughters to a historically all-black Richmond City public school, escorting Anne Holton’s sister to class in a gesture captured in a historic photograph.

“I have spent much of my working life focused on children and families at the margin, with full appreciation of the crucial role education can and must play in helping young people escape poverty and become successful adults,” Holton wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June 2015.

Holton and Kaine also sent their three children, who are now grown, to Richmond public schools.

The pair met at Harvard Law School, from which they both graduated. She became a legal aid lawyer representing low-income clients in Richmond and eventually a judge in the city’s juvenile and domestic relations court. She stepped down when her husband was elected governor in 2005 and as first lady made a priority of finding and stabilizing homes for teens in foster care.

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools….

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools.

Tim and Anne will be great advocates for public schools. Unlike many reformers, who never set foot in a public school, they actually know from personal experience what they are talking about.