ALBANY—If too many students "opt out" of Common Core-aligned state exams later this month, New York might be forced to administer national tests instead, Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch said during a public radio interview on Tuesday.
“New York is in a unique position,” Tisch said on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” “Most other states in this country are being forced into two national tests. New York State took the opportunity over these last several years to build our own state tests, and that is exactly why I am particularly interested in curtailing this ‘opt out’ movement. Because in order for us to be able to have viable state test, we need a viable number of students in every district showing up to be tested. We need to have valid, reliable state assessments.
“In the absence of that critical number we will be forced, unfortunately—and I truly believe unfortunately—to adopt a national test,” she said.
Tisch is getting shriller by the day over parent and teacher pushback of her Endless Testing regime and there's a reason for that:
The opt out movement is growing and growing.
Take a look at some of the coverage in today's media from around New York:
Oneida (WSYR-TV) - Parents from all over Central New York will host different meetings across the area to inform other parents about opting their children out of New York State testing.
"Opt Out CNY" is a group formed after New York State implemented Common Core standards and has stepped up efforts this year. The renewed movement comes after Governor Andrew Cuomo's state budget plans to tie teacher evaluations to the same testing.
School districts are required to administer the exams, but individual parents have been sending letters to the schools that they're child won't be participating.
New York State is implementing new testing for English language arts and math for grades 3-8.
“Parents are often concerned that their refusal will result in a loss of funding to their school, harm the teacher’s evaluation, or prevent their child from participating in certain academic programs. Once we were armed with the facts that these fears are unfounded, it was easy for us to decide to refuse the tests,” added Dave Lupia, parent of three children who attend Harts Hill Elementary School in Whitesboro. “To me, my refusal is a vote of confidence in my children’s teachers and school, and a concrete way for me to express my concern about the laws recently enacted by our legislators.”
Parents who are unable to attend these forums can ask questions on social media at Opt Out CNY on Facebook, and sample refusal letters along with other information can be found at optoutcny.wordpress.com.
Parents of children with special needs say the state tests that measure progress in math and English in grades three through eight are setting them up for failure with a one-size-fits-all approach.
They say the tests are developmentally inappropriate and create anxiety and frustration for their children. They worry that test-prep is eating into the time spent working on social and life skills. They also don't like their children's performance on tests being tied to their teacher's evaluations.
Many are considering opting out of the controversial Common Core-aligned exams, according to NYS Allies for Public Education, a parent and educator advocacy group.
"We are telling our kids they are failures," said Cheryl Smith, who teaches science at Albert Leonard in a collaborative classroom, in which half the children have special needs. "Tests are supposed to tell you something, but we already know what the outcome will be for these kids..."
Mahopac Middle School English teacher Tom McMahon said he would never consider allowing his son with special needs, now a first grader, to take the exams.
"Michael will have enough struggles in school without being used as a statistic on an exam with no diagnostic value and no value to his education," he said. "The last thing Michael needs is another test where he cannot possibly achieve success."
McMahon, who also lives in Mahopac, said none of his children will be taking the tests.
Rubino, whose son, John, is now a fourth grader in a collaborative classroom, worries that teachers won't want to teach those classes anymore for fear of being rated low. Under the new law, teachers rated ineffective on two rounds of state tests are required to be rated "ineffective" overall. Two consecutive ineffective ratings can get a teacher fired.
"If the class does poorly on the test, the teachers would be rated ineffective," Rubino said. "John's teachers are anything but ineffective — they are phenomenal."
From the Democrat & Chronicle:
Add the Working Families Party to the list of groups urging parents to consider opting their children out of state exams.
The labor-backed political party sent an email to its members and supporters Monday with links to instructions for taking their kids out of the grade 3-8 math and English exams, which will be administered beginning April 14.
Some parent and teacher groups have encouraged opting out of the tests, which helped lead to thousands of opt outs last year. The push got a boost earlier this month from New York State United Teachers union president Karen Magee, who suggested parents should consider keeping their kids from taking the exams.
"Opting out sends a powerful message to the Governor, the legislature, and the Board of Regents: that enough is enough when it comes to overtesting our kids, demonizing teachers, and undermining public education," wrote Bill Lipton, state director of the Working Families Party. "The parent-led movement is bringing pressure on politicians to change the teacher evaluation system to one that works for all of our kids, in high-income districts and low-income districts alike."
The push appears to have caught on among some liberal-leaning groups, including Citizen Action of New York, which has also added step-by-step opt-out instructions to its website. (Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action, is also the co-chair of the Working Families Party.
The latest round of testing comes two weeks after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers agreed to change the state's system for evaluating teachers. While the state Education Department will put the final touches on the system by June, the new law requires that a teacher whose students perform poorly on state exams can't get an overall rating better than "developing," the second-lowest score.
Tisch claimed anybody pushing children to opt out of state tests is "ignoring the needs of children":
"Those who call for 'opting out' really want New York to 'opt out' of information that can help parents and teachers understand how well students are doing," Tisch said. "We cannot go back to ignoring the needs of our children. It's time to stop making noise to protect the adults and start speaking up for the students."
It seems the Regents Chancellor knows what's good for your children and you don't.
Governor Cuomo sends a similar message when he says he cares about students but teachers only care about their jobs and pensions.
It is time to send a message to authoritarian politicians like Andrew Cuomo and the political functionaries like Merryl Tisch and the educrats at NYSED that parents and teachers know what is best for children, particularly when they work with kids all day long and see the damage that the Endless Testing regime is doing to the children and school life.
Tisch is obviously already getting that message, which is why she is growing shriller by the day in her pushback.
Cuomo's probably getting the message too, but as an elected official with already falling approval ratings, he's staying away from criticism of the opt out movement for now.
But make no mistake, he'll jump aboard the "Opt Out Is Harmful Express" if and when he sees the movement is putting a shiv into his beloved new teacher accountability system.
These politicians, political functionaries and educrats are seriously threatened by this parent-led movement to opt out of the state tests and starve the corporate education reform machine of its precious data.
They know they can unfairly smear teachers as self-interested and selfish (as they've been doing for decades now) and win a few PR battles over testing, but that sure does get harder when they have to fight the parents in this state too.