The Daily News reports that some estimates put the number of students opting out as high as 300,000 students — which is approaching a third of all tested students. The Buffalo News reports that 70% of 2,976 eligible students in the West Seneca School District have refused to participate in the New York state tests that started on Tuesday. In some school districts, the figure was more than half.
School accountability systems and new teacher evaluation systems rely heavily on these test results. These systems don’t necessarily require that every student be tested, but a “sampling” approach needs to deliberately select which students are. Having large numbers of students simply opt out raises troubling questions about the validity of the results. The biggest problem is the potential bias as to which students are and are not being counted in this school or that system, and how that may skew scores.
There are statistical fixes for some of this, but they rely on trying to adjust for how missing students would have scored . . . and, if educators knew that, they wouldn’t need to administer the tests.
Even if the impact is believed to be manageable by state officials, it may still raise deep-seated concerns about the legitimacy and practical impact of the results. Teachers will have a reasonable claim that due process is being violated if, under the new evaluation system championed by Gov. Cuomo, they’re judged “ineffective” based on results that may be skewed. And parents may revolt if their school is targeted for restructuring based on outcomes that they deem suspect.
Hess says education reformers and policymakers should learn some lessons from the testing backlash that is raging:
In many ways, the anti-testing backlash is just more collateral damage brought by the headlong rush to adopt the Common Core standards across the nation. Frustrated parents have fought back in the ways they can, and one of the most powerful is to delegitimize the tests that make those standards matter. The backlash is not just about the Common Core, of course, it’s due also to a sense among many parents that these tests and the accountability systems linked to them are not good for their kids or responsive to their concerns.
Proponents of measured, restrained test-based accountability should not dismiss these concerns. School reform advocates have sometimes belittled this kind of pushback as misguided or malicious. That’s a huge mistake. Hundreds of thousands of New York families are sending a signal flare: that they’re skeptical of the value of these tests, don’t necessarily trust the results, and think test-based reform has distorted the nature of schooling. This is a useful and healthy warning, and one that policymakers would do well to heed.
Will policymakers heed the "useful and healthy warning" they're getting from parents in New York State that is enough is enough with the imposed education reforms?
Will Andrew Cuomo, who just pushed through a teacher evaluation system heavily weighted in favor of these Common Core tests, heed the warning?