A boycott movement that has turned state standardized tests into a battleground is dividing school districts across the region and drawing the attention of state education leaders.
Roughly 7 percent of students in third through eighth grade in Erie and Niagara counties refused to take a state English exam earlier this month.
But in some districts, 15 to 28 percent of the students who should have taken the exam did not pick up their No. 2 pencils.
State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. last week called the students and parents who opted out across the state a “small but meaningful percentage.”
Standardized tests have been required by federal No Child Left Behind education law for years. But an overhaul of learning standards and a decision to use the scores for a portion of teacher evaluations have fueled concerns over the way the tests are shaping public education.
The parents’ message appears to have been heard in Albany.
King, in a speech at New York University last week, said a “small but meaningful percentage of parents and students” who opted out of the new state assessments had “made their voices heard even if they are now denying themselves and their teachers the opportunity to know how their children are performing against a common benchmark used throughout the state.”
King grouped the test refusals in with a long list of noisy protests over education – from the ouster of New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi last week to a series of public forums dominated by complaints over state education policy last fall.
“I try to focus on outcomes for students and to leave ideology and politics aside,” King said. “These days, however, New York politics seems to be all about education, and it’s hard to find any agreements on facts – let alone policy. And it’s also hard to see where everyone stands.”
Love it that King says he's leaving ideology and politics aside in this battle when the truth is, ideology and politics are at the core of the education reform fight.
King and his educrats want to call all of the shots in education, want to ensure that only what they want taught in classrooms all across the state gets taught and they use the tests and the teacher evaluations tied to the tests to accomplish that goal.
Can't get more political than that.
Chris Cerrone, parent and teacher, knows that and offers the Buffalo News a solution for taking King and the educrats on:
The goal of the parents is clear: to scale back the number of state standardized exams that are tied to teacher evaluations and school performance.
“It is making a political statement that we’re not going to let our children be used to evaluate teachers,” said Chris Cerrone, a Springville resident who frequently blogs about anti-testing efforts and who directed his two elementary school children to refuse the state English assessment this month.
Like many of the parents whose children opted out of the exams, Cerrone is also a teacher. But when Cerrone speaks out against testing, he said, he speaks as a parent concerned that his children receive a “well-rounded education.”
“It’s also to throw a monkey wrench into the system,” Cerrone said. “If a statistical number of students do boycott, then the tests are not valid for the purposes to judge a school or teachers, and I think that’s part of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Starve the system of its precious data and you kill the political and ideological movement behind the system.
King can make believe he's above politics all he wants - he's as political in this fight as anybody else and he's on the wrong side of the politics.
I spent Monday with some family members and the subject of testing and education came up.
These are retired people, none of them teachers, but they had all heard about the opt-out movement and the damage the tests and the Common Core were doing to children.
One aunt said she had heard a story of how the children who used to love to go to school hated to go to school now because of the Common Core and the testing.
I often use family members as canaries in the coalmine to gauge how a particular story is playing out with the general public.
In the case of the Endless Testing regime and the Common Core, the trajectory does not seem to be going John King's way, not if my family members are any indication of what the public perception of the battle is.
The opt-out movement is gaining steam, gaining adherents, and some positive press coverage.
I can't imagine why John King's "Shut Up And Take Your Test!" movement isn't so popular with the public.