Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How Are Teachers Handling The Opt Out Issue?

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said any educator who supports or encourages the Opt Out movement is "unethical".

A commenter on a previous Perdido Street School post said she/he never encourages parents to opt children out of tests:

I am a teacher and I totally support the opt out movement. However, I do not believe it is ethical for teachers to ENCOURAGE parents to opt out. On the flip side I have no problem whatsoever for teachers to give information to parents who ASK for opt out information. It is the same with cops. They might not support a certain law like drinking in public but they can't encourage people to just brown bag it in dark corners.

In a reply to that comment, another commenter wrote:

At my school the principal asked us NOT to discuss opt out with parents, even if they ask. If a parent brings it up we have to tell them to speak to the principal. Talking to parents about opt out is a good way to get rated ineffective.

There is some conjecture that going forward, NYSED will go after educators with high opt rates, from superintendents leading districts to principals leading schools to teachers in individual classrooms.

Both Regents Chancellor Tisch and NYSED Commissioner Elia have made some not-so-subtle comments to back up that conjecture that they will look to punish educators over opt out rates.

So, there's an important question to ask here:

How do teachers out there handle the opt out issue?

16 comments:

  1. We were told to say nothing by our union even if parents asked. I did have one parent ask me my thoughts after she told me she was opting her children out. I told her I couldn't comment.

    Towards the end of the year a few of my elementary students were talking about the state tests. One of the kids said " You don't have to take the tests anymore, just have your parents write a letter to the school." The others shook their heads in agreement. Kids are smart. They watch the news, listen to theirs parents conversations, and know what is going on. I told my daughter not to talk about it with her fiends at school. Honestly, I was afraid of her getting in trouble if an adult heard her. Instead all her friend were texting each other about it. The opt out at her school grew from 6 kids last year to a 39% opt out rate this year.

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    1. So not only does the movement spread among parents, it spreads among children too. Tisch and Elia promise they'll stop it from spreading more next year. Will be interesting to see how that plays out.

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    2. In my suburban school, we were forbidden from speaking to parents about opting out. If a parent asked, we were instructed to tell them to speak to the principal. Still we got a 40% optput rate in 3-5, and higher in the middle school. This was up from less than 1% the year before.

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  2. Love it!!!!!
    Opt out rate went from 5 to 20%. Next year it will go from 20 to 35%. LOVVVE IT!!!

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    1. Yes, the curtain was drawn back on the Wizard of NYSED and was found to be a little old educrat pulling some levers and shouting sanctions, but that was all smoke and mirrors. Tisch and Elia say they'll try and convince parents of the importance of the tests. Fat chance of that.

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  3. Has Elia forbidden teachers from opting out their own children? Can parent/teachers mention that fact to other parents? Can parent/teachers talk about opting out when visiting their child's school? With their neighbors? Someone ought to quiz her just to force her to publicly answer for her moronic ruminations on 'opting out'.

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    1. Yes, great points, VSE. I was wondering that myself. Some of the parents opting their children out of state tests are teachers. Is there a double standard for these parents because they're educators as well? Are they "unethical," as Elia put it? Are they subject to disciplining as teachers because they opted their children out of state tests as parents?

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  4. From Under The BusAugust 23, 2015 at 8:00 PM

    My principal told us not to discuss it...however...I believe in free speech. I am not afraid of any principal or retaliation. There is enough substantiated dirt on her to to have an investigation. This stuff has gone on way too long and I am not a part of the sheep population.

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  5. We were told to refer all parents to the principal. However, the teachers were also forced to hand out propaganda in the form of an "informational" letter which was full of misinformation and lies concerning the merits of the state tests. I found this very UNETHICAL. I abstained from participating in this charade.

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  6. From Under the Bus: You can believe in free speech all you want, but when you are at your place of employment, you are expected to give up some of that right. This is a fact.
    If you want to spend the rest of your short career arguing with a nut, be my guest.

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  7. Quietly invite someone from change the stakes to talk to parents. Given that parents will get one point of view from the principal they should hear both sides in order to make a decision.

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  8. In my district nobody tells the parents what to do. However we believe that being truthful with our community is an important part of a quality public education system. Therefore at all levels we work to inform the parents of the facts. I believe that educating parents on factual information associated with this contoversial topic is the "ethical" and just thing for teachers to do.

    The problem for hacks like Elia, Tisch, and Cuomo is that once the parents know the facts a very small number permit their children to take the tests. Because the facts are: the tests are given at a level higher than what students are accustomed to, they are graded by strangers, neither parents nor teachers will ever find out what students got right and what they got wrong, I have had to sign agreements saying I would never discuss what was on the test or I could be fired, the cut scored determining who passed is set arbitrarily with no good reason for being what it is, I will not receive scores back until those students are no linger in my classroom, our district uses the scores for absolutely nothing, and students in my grade are tested for nine hours. Once parents know those facts there is little reason any sane human would take the tests.

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  9. I fully understand the need to suggest that teachers keep their mouths' shut while at work regarding Opt Out. The practicality of that advice and its utility cannot be argued against. We all must do what we can to keep our jobs as long as we can. That much is obvious. BUT.....if I may....bring up a thought on doing exactly the opposite, en masse.

    It may come as a shock to some, but the number of actual people employed at NYSED is small. We tend to think of state ed as being an enormous building or series of buildings with layers of offices and cubicles and all that....a huge monolith of an institution. However, that is not true. A few years back I dug a little deeper into this and while the actual numbers escape me right now, the amount of employees at NYSED was shockingly low. It was of interest to note that by far the largest sub-group of NYSED employees were vendor-contractor-relations people..... these people outnumbered by a large amount everyone else. Anyway, what am I getting at? Well, NYSED does not have the manpower to investigate, respond to, and 3020A large masses of teachers. Its a huge weakness, but its true. Even if they contract all that disciplinary stuff out, there is simply NO WAY they can ever muster the manpower to bureaucratically deal with mass teacher activities such as could happen if teachers banded together and EN MASSE started talking about opt out. Sure, NYSED would strongly go after a few teachers via 3020A....but you know what, they'll do that anyway in this environment. We need to begin thinking about details and the details show that we outnumber NYSED folks by an astonishing margin. They can't 3020A all of us and that is something to think about. I'm not saying this is the right path, but movement politics, at some point, comes to a point where people have to risk some things, and with the numbers we are talking about here, NYSED would thrown in the towel if we organized a strong EVERY TEACHER SHOULD SPEAK THEIR MIND ABOUT OPT OUT movement.

    Again, I am DEFINITELY not saying that it is the role of the teacher to talk in their capacity as teachers in favor of opt out. I simply want to make people aware that if we as teachers organize properly and use our numbers, ALOT of the fear that we all swim in on a daily basis can be mitigated.

    NYSED will be ramping up its attacks on teachers over Opt Out. Its their only path. NYSUT is a joke and NYSUT legal help is an even more tragic joke. Individuals will get hurt. However, perhaps the only defense we have...the only path out of the fear....is to organize like a UNION SHOULD, and attack harder. They don't have the numbers to handle it. Really. The technicalities matter. There are like 600,000 teachers. There are a few dozen people at NYSED. Even if 1000 of us run afoul of their ever changing moral and ethical definitions, they CAN'T GET THE PAPERWORK DONE FOR ALL THOSE 3020As!

    Something to think about.
    Just saying.

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  10. I agree with much of what you said anonymous 8:08. The state may very well look to discipline individual teachers who speak out this year as a way to "make an example" of them and to instill fear in everybody else. As we have seen throughout history The use of fear is one of the most traditional weapons that those in power will use. It can be overcome with numbers though, as you mentioned. Not only does the state not possess a staff large enough to handle all of those 3020A's, but they won't want the publicity that comes along with going to war with mass numbers of teachers. Ultimately that would be a huge news story and if a light was shined on the situation nobody would be siding with MaryEllen Elia over their child's teacher.

    So yes, the next steps in this process MUST come from large numbers of teachers. But I would argue that it shouldn't just be talking about and supporting the opt-out movement. At this point very little should be off the table... mass boycotts of test administration, walkouts, wildcat strikes, whatever it takes. Think of the news the 12 hunger strikers from Dyett High School in Chicago have caused over the last week or so. A perfect example of how we can continue our fight... taking bold action in groups.

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  11. Its not the state that you have to worry about. Its your principal. They have a strange way of finding things out.

    If your principal finds out you are talking to parents, you can kiss your job goodbye.

    You're giving bad advice to people.

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    1. Nope. My pricipal speaks with parents the same way I do. Even if she didn't, I can't get in trouble for doing nothing wrong. Nothing wrong with providing factual information.

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