Assessments Are Important – That’s Why Many Families Are ‘Opting In’


Citing multiple media reports from last year, Story Hinckley erroneously reports for the Christian Science Monitor that opt-out efforts are gaining steam in New York this year. “Concerns go beyond testing conditions to the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of standardized tests. Parents argue that the tests assess their children on information they haven’t learned while implementing new learning approaches that ‘look like pure nonsense—or just a lot of extra work.’”

But despite concerted opt-out campaigns, which include robo-calls to families, many parents are refusing to have their children sit out the tests. In Manhattan’s Public School 124, the entire student body participated in the state tests, the New York Times reported this week. Educators at PS 124 offered afterschool support to students who needed extra practice to prepare for exams.

“Tests are critically important,” the New York Daily News editorial board wrote. “New York has done everything imaginable to ease the supposedly unmanageable stress piled on Janies and Johnnies throughout the state. Everything imaginable, short of running all exams through the shredder.” Their advice: “Take the damn tests.”

Opt-out supporters’ goal is to ensure testing “won’t expose kids’ academic problems,” the New York Post postulates. While that conclusion is unfair to many parents who want the best for their children, it exposes that many opt-out advocates ignore the value of high-quality assessments and the work state officials have done to improve the exams. As the Post notes, “Yearly assessments are vital in measuring learning. They provide critical feedback about students, teachers and schools.”

Last year Karen Nussle explained that most states have raised classroom expectations for students and they are finally measuring to those levels, giving parents and teachers an accurate snapshot of how well their kids are doing. “States have adopted higher standards, states have tests that measure those standards and they’re comparable, so there can be an honest baseline…That is a fantastic success for each state and for America and its children,” said John White, Louisiana’s state superintendent.

High-quality assessments are already having an impact. A Harvard University study this year notes the Common Core “has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States.” An analysis by Achieve reaches a similar conclusion. It finds more than half of states significantly narrowed their “Honesty Gaps” by implementing high-quality assessments.

Writing in USA Today, Mike Petrilli points out that parents should embrace, not reject, this step towards transparency. “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. They may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing.”