Opting Out Is Not the Way to Help New York Students Succeed
New York allows parents to opt out of having their children take the state’s assessments in math and English language arts. A report this week from the Poughkeepsie Journal examines local opt-out trends in the region and why some parents are opposed to the assessments.
Despite opt-out rates remaining flat over the past two years, opponents of assessments aligned to high academic standards still argue there’s a “high-stakes” nature about the assessments and they are too closely aligned to Common Core Sate Standards. As the article notes, opponents believe the test, “promotes one-size-fits-all learning standards, has questionable content and is not age-appropriate, among other things.”
But opting out only hurts students. 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. Annual assessments are an important part of the learning process for students, teachers and schools by providing valuable feedback on student performance that can inform where students are struggling and need extra assistance, or where they are excelling and need more challenging work.
Families also strongly support high-quality assessments. Nearly four out of five parents favor annual assessments, and 73 percent support assessments that are comparable among states and school districts, according to a national Education Next survey. And states are achieving results as they deliver those.
When parents keep students out of the end-of-year test, it doesn’t just hurt their child, it hurts all children in their school. As the National PTA has weighed in, “While we recognize that parents are a child’s first teacher and respect the rights of parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, the association believes the consequences of nonparticipation in state assessments can have detrimental impacts on students and schools.”
Opting out could also have a major impact on the education of low-income students and students of color, who often attend schools with the largest achievement gaps and the greatest need for resources. As 12 national civil and human rights groups wrote, “We rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children.”
The Poughkeepsie Journal piece also highlights parents’ frustrations over the assessments and blaming the Common Core for them. In that regard, it’s important to note the Common Core is not a test, or a testing regime. States that adopted the Common Core have made changes to build on the framework and ensure their learning goals meet students’ needs. That’s exactly how the standards were intended to work. “The Common Core was always meant to be a floor, not a ceiling,” Collaborative for Student Success Executive Director Jim Cowen explains.
If parents really want to improve their student’s chances of success, schools and districts need to have consistent and measurable data to determine what’s working and what is not. Opting out is a decision that fails to give students, parents, and educators the tools they need to succeed. Opting in gives parents a better understanding of how their child is doing academically, and whether they are on the path to college and career readiness.