Opting Out Creates Long-Term Problems for Students, Teachers, and Parents

Student assessments don’t adequately measure student learning and cost classrooms valuable time, argues Bob Erland, a Massachusetts teacher, in the Cohasset Mariner. “We have to step up and make a stand against what is being inflicted against our students,” Erland argues. “These tests don’t measure success, and the cost is a generation of some of our most innovative thinkers.”

Contrary to Erland’s claim, high-quality state assessments are one of many tools parents and teachers have to measure student development, and to provide support when and where students need it. They do not define students or limit student learning or innovative thinking. They are a snapshot that allow parents and teachers to see how students are progressing and how schools as a whole are performing. Just as college admissions use SATs as ONE measure of student college readiness — along with high school grades, recommendations, extracurricular activities, and writing samples — state assessments are one measure of student growth and performance.

As 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 a welcome change.”

Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute agrees. “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,” he wrote in USA Today.

Across the country, a growing number of educators, experts and parents are urging families to “opt in” to high-quality assessments. Chief among them has been civil rights leaders, who point out assessments are important to ensure minority and low-income students are held to high expectations.

This month Reverend Al Sharpton explained 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.” Likewise, Education Trust President Kati Haycock wrote last year, “When we are finally going in the right direction, why would we even consider going back?”

Good tests ensure parents and teachers know when students are on track to graduate high school fully prepared for college or a career. That can have a huge impact on families. Each year students across all types of colleges borrow an extra $380 million to take courses covering material that should have been mastered in high school, NPR reported this month.

Nationwide, students and families spend nearly $1.5 billion on remedial education. And it’s not just at-risk students. Forty-five percent of students who place into remedial courses come from middle- and high-income families, and students at private colleges spend an average of $12,000 extra to study material they should have learned in high school.