Opt-Out Proponents in New York Refuse to Take ‘Yes’ as an Answer

New York parents continue to opt-out their children from statewide assessments because they are unsatisfied with “reform by the very ‘reformers’ who mucked up the rapid-paced adoption of Common Core-aligned high-stakes testing,” the Westchester Journal editorial board claims. “[Parents] want to see real change, and until they do, some will have their kids sit out the test… State leaders should accept this transitional year as a wash.”

But opt out proponents’ continued opposition to high-quality assessments—which officials made significant changes to, including shortening the tests, giving students more time and putting a moratorium on using the results in teacher evaluations—suggests they will not stop until any measure of accountability is removed from the exams.

The New York Post editorial board wrote this month, “The opt-out crowd won’t quit until all tests are meaningless…The state’s plainly headed toward testing that won’t expose kids’ academic problems.” That does a disservice to families and teachers. “Yearly assessments are vital in measuring learning. They provide critical feedback about students, teachers and schools.”

Across New York a growing chorus of voices have been countering opt-out activists’ message, encouraging students to “opt-in.” “Take the damn tests,” the New York Daily News put it bluntly. “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.”

Civil Rights advocates, including Reverend Al Sharpton, have called for students to participate in state tests. Test results “show the gap between education in some areas and others,” Sharpton said. “We need to be able to measure that and we need to be real clear about the educational inequality.”

Others point out that high-quality tests finally reflect the skills students need to be able to compete at high levels of learning and to succeed after high school. “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 Louisiana state superintendent John White last fall.

Earlier this year Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, put it simply: “When we are finally going in the right direction, why would we even consider going back?”