Ravitch Wrong About Goals and Effectiveness of Opting Out

Diane Ravitch claims New York’s opt-out movement has been effective and now has larger goals. “Opt out leaders want a sweeping change in education policy, from scripted lessons and high-stakes testing to child-centered classrooms, where children are really put first, not test scores,” Ravitch argues. Ravitch cites an article in the Long Island Press, which alleges opt-out efforts have been a “giant win” for activists. “Their message has been effective: No more Common Core,” the article states.

Many parents have expressed concerns about overtesting. But those frustrations are directed at testing policy, not the Common Core, as Ravitch and others suggest. It is important to note that the Common Core State Standards are not a test or a testing regime. Which assessments students take and the policies around those assessments are decisions made by state and local authorities.

Moreover, opting out risks putting students, parents and teachers at a disadvantage. High-quality assessments provide accurate information about student development, an important tool to improve instruction and meet learning needs. Parents’ refusal to allow their kids to participate undermines the integrity of that information, not only for their families but for entire communities.

“Let’s be clear,” former Education Secretary Bill Bennett wrote this year. “There are constructive ways to improve education and accountability policies. Opting out is not one of them. Refusing to participate in assessments puts students, parents and teachers at a disadvantage, and it does little to address legitimate concerns about the quality and volume of state tests.”

New York officials have made significant changes to improve its exams, including shortening the tests and giving students more time, and a recent analysis applauds the state for achieving proficiency rates closely aligned to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Across New York a growing chorus of educators, policymakers, civil rights leaders and parents has urged families to “opt in” to high-quality assessments.

“Yearly assessments are vital in measuring learning,” the New York Post editorialized this spring. “They provide critical feedback about students, teachers and schools.” It adds that opponents won’t be appeased until assessments are scrapped entirely.

Likewise, the New York Daily News opined in April: “New York has done everything imaginable to ease the supposedly unmanageable stress [of state assessments]…Tests are critically important; they deliver crucial diagnostic information about whether a teacher, a school or a district is doing its job.”

Civil rights leaders, too, have made clear good tests are necessary to ensure students from all backgrounds have access to a quality education. “When we are finally going in the right direction, why would we even consider going back?” Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, questioned previously.