A Silent Majority of New Yorkers Are ‘Opting In’ to High-Quality Assessments

Reporting on a recent opinion piece by New York teacher Katie Lapham, a New Boston Post article suggests educators across New York adamantly oppose assessments aligned to Common Core State Standards. “Like Lapham, others in New York and elsewhere have called on students (and parents) to refuse to take the tests…‘There is no conclusive evidence that NCLB high-stakes testing has improved the academic performance of any student – particularly those who need the most help.’”

But despite concerted opt-out campaigns, initial results show more students and families are “opting in” to New York’s assessments. The Albany Times-Union reported yesterday initial opt-out rates declined by nearly 20 percent from last year. The results indicate the “tide on opt outs appears to have been stemmed,” said representatives of High Achievement New York, which recently launched the hashtag #SayYesToTheTest.

In Kingston, New York, participation rates climbed this year. “I think a lot of the public sentiment may be giving the benefit of the doubt in favor of the testing, and the removal from the teacher evaluation piece may be part of it,” explains Superintendent Paul Padalino.

New York officials made serious changes to address concerns based on teachers’ and parents’ input. This year’s tests include fewer questions in both math and English language arts, provide students unlimited time to complete the tests, and ensure the results will not be used in teacher evaluations until the 2019-20 school year.

Yet, continued calls to refuse state tests indicate “the opt-out crowd won’t quit until all tests are meaningless,” the New York Post editorial board wrote earlier this month. “It’s clear why the unions hate testing. But it’s pathetic to see supposed leaders go along with betraying the kids.”

In response to opt-out efforts, a growing chorus has emerged urging parents to opt in to high-quality assessments. Kathleen Porter-Magee, superintendent of Partnership Schools, a network of six urban Catholic schools, recently wrote that her students are voluntarily participating in New York’s assessments. “We at the Partnership use results from the New York tests to benchmark our progress and our students’ academic growth, and to ensure we are keeping expectations high for our students.”

Civil rights leaders have long advocated for high-quality assessments, noting they are important to ensure all children receive an education that prepares them for college and careers. This month, Reverend Al Sharpton put his support behind New York’s assessments. “[Test results] show the gap between education in some areas and others…We need to be able to measure that and we need to be real clear about the educational inequality.”

High-quality assessments are one of the best tools parents and educators have to measure their children’s progress and to provide support when and where it’s needed. Karen Nussle explained last fall, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college or a career…For parents and educators, that should come as welcome change.”