ALBANY – Key lawmakers in both the state Senate and Assembly agree that a wave of parents refusing state tests on their children's behalf demands action from the state Legislature.
The heads of the education committees in both chambers said on Tuesday they expect to take up legislation that will address a host of education issues, including the high opt-out rates.
Just what that action lawmakers take will be determined over the next two months. The Legislature is set to end its 2015 session at the Capitol on June 17.
"I absolutely believe we will take legislative action in the area of education that deals with all of these issues," said Senate Education Committee chairman John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County.
There are a couple of opt-out bills floating around, one by Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown) that would require districts to notify parents a couple of weeks before the testing season by email or mail that they have the right to opt their children out of the tests. The bill would also require districts to send a response form making it easier for parents to opt their children out.
The other bill, by Cathy Nolan (D-Queens), is a version that would "keep the state from retaliating or taking 'negative action' against any student, parent, administrator, school or school district for the opt-outs. It would apply to any state exams 'including but not limited to' the English and math tests administered to students in grades 3-8."
Other than those bills, what other actions will the legislature take up?
Well, the charter cap increase will be on the agenda (though of course that has nothing to do with why so many parents opted their children out of the state tests) and extension of mayoral control in NYC will also be on the agenda (again, nothing to do with opt outs.)
There's nothing in the items I just detailed that would derail the test-driven classroom and test-driven education culture that we currently have that is only going to get worse once Governor Cuomo's new teacher evaluation plan is completed and put into place.
To be frank, it seems to me the heavy hearts in the legislature are simply paying lip service to the concerns and frustrations of parents and teachers across the state, talking about taking meaningful action while taking as little of it as possible.
The opt out bills are a step in the right direction but they will not do much to derail the test-driven schools, test-driven classrooms and test-driven education culture we have in this state.
If the only actions the legislature takes the rest of this session is to clarify opt out rights, increase the charter cap and extend NYC mayoral control by three years, then not much is really changing in the system - especially since Cuomo's test-driven teacher evaluation system is looming for all next year.
And that's assuming anything gets done at all.
With a possible indictment/arrest coming for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and with the second in command in the state Senate, Tom Libous, already under indictment for lying to the FBI, there's a good possibility that little gets done the rest of this session.