Opt Out Efforts Disregard Value of Assessments for All Students

Activists in New York are planning an “Opt Out, Shop Out” event to encourage parents to have their students refuse state tests, Newsday reports. “Opting out is the only way we will continue to see change,” says Jeanette Deutermann, an organizer of the event. “We want to make sure that the testing system is disrupted enough so change has to continue.”

High-quality tests aligned to college- and career-ready standards are one of the best tools parents and teachers have to accurately measure student development. Last year 12 national civil rights groups issued a statement calling out the negative impact of opting out. “We rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children.”

Charles Coleman, a prominent civil rights attorney, highlighted the importance of good tests for minority communities in an op-ed last month. “Boycotting standardized tests may seem like a good idea, but it hurts black learners the most…The negative associations many of us attach to Common Core, standardized testing, and teacher evaluations stem from a false narrative on the state of our education system and short-sighted ideas on how to fix it.”

“Consistent standards and assessments for students throughout the country mean more students will receive exceptional education and have an equal chance to succeed,” wrote former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson last fall. “[Common Core State Standards] and aligned assessments are a necessary step toward eliminating the Honesty Gap and giving parents a more accurate picture of student performance.”

The Newsday headline suggests parents are frustrated with New York’s Common Core State Standards. But polling indicates parents and educators strongly support college- and career-ready standards. “Support for high, consistent standards, by any name, remains strikingly strong,” Karen Nussle wrote last year, citing multiple studies demonstrating public support for college- and career-ready standards.

Common Core State Standards do not dictate which tests states use. Those decisions remain with state and local authorities. And while parents are concerned about over-testing, evidence suggests assessments like those administered in New York are working. A follow-up analysis to the Honesty Gap report found more than half of states made significant progressing narrowing discrepancies between state-reported proficiency rates and those identified by NAEP.

“Parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or the associated tests,” Mike Petrilli, president of the Fordham Institute, wrote in USA Today last year. “They may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing.”