Opting Out Should Raise a Red Flag for Parents

Writing in the Westchester Journal News, Suzanne Coyle, a local parent, urges others to withhold their children from statewide assessments. “Test-based accountability has never been shown to increase academic achievement and there is no evidence that these test scores are predictive of anything,” Coyle claims. But “a focus on test scores narrows the curriculum and ‘dumbs down’ our children’s educational experience.”

Coyle’s claims should raise a red flag for parents. High-quality assessments are one of the most important tools parents and teachers have to measure student development towards college and career readiness.

“We rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children,” 12 national civil rights groups wrote in a statement last year. “Anti-testing efforts that appear to be growing in states across the nation, like in Colorado and New York, would sabotage important data and rob us of the right to know how our students are faring.”

And the evidence indicates New York is moving in the right direction. An analysis by Achieve, an independent education advocacy organization, identified the Empire State for the second year in a row for reporting student proficiency rates closely aligned to those indicated by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Additionally, New York officials, educators and experts have reviewed the state’s tests and made changes to both the exams and how they are administered. Coyle’s reaction —“a Band-Aid at best,” “exaggerated at best,” and “simply not enough”—suggests for some opponents, the purpose of opting out is to uproot the system, not improve it.

But to dismiss high-quality assessments like New York’s would do a disservice to the state’s students and put them at a disadvantage to their counterparts in other states. Maryann Woods-Murphy, former New Jersey Teacher of the Year, explains: “[High-quality assessments] empower us to address learning needs and build on what’s working. With accurate information, teachers can tailor lesson plans, focus instruction and provide support to student need.”

Pam Reilly, Illinois’ 2014 Teacher of the Year and a participant in research conducted by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, agrees. “I sympathize with parents who have grown frustrated with the number of tests their children face. But I can say with confidence these new assessments are the kind we should want our kids to take.”