School districts will not be penalized for having large numbers of students refuse to sit for the New York State standardized tests this year, education officials said on Thursday, ending months of uncertainty over how they would respond to a growing antitesting movement.
As recently as last week, the state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, said that she was not sure if the federal Education Department would withhold money from districts with high opt-out rates. She declined to rule out the possibility that the state would do so on its own.But on Thursday, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents, Merryl H. Tisch, said that the federal Education Department informed the state’s Education Department “a couple of weeks ago” that it was leaving any decision about financial penalties to the state. And Ms. Tisch, whose board oversees the state agency and appoints the commissioner, said the state did not plan to withhold money from districts.“I think when you withdraw money from a school district, what you’re doing is you’re hurting the kids in the school district,” she said. “So I don’t think that’s an effective way to deal with it.”
Ms. Tisch said that Ms. Elia had told the Board of Regents she would present a plan to them in September about how she would work with superintendents and principals whose districts and schools had high opt-out rates, in order to get them to reverse the tide of test refusals.Ms. Tisch did not rule out withholding money in the future if the state discovered that district officials were encouraging opt-outs.School officials need to know, Ms. Tisch said, that “they have to be responsible to work with parents to explain why the testing system is so important to the district and to the school.”
I figured there wasn't the political will from Tisch, NYSED or Cuomo to take money away from districts or schools this year.
But they'll have something up their sleeves for next year to try to get the opt out rate down - of that you can be sure.
That's why Tisch is leaving the possibility of withholding money in the future.
It seems the onus will be on district officials "to work with parents to explain why the testing system is so important to the district and to the school.”
Does that mean if parents continue to opt their children out at similar rates to this year - or even higher rates - that district officials will have failed "to work with parents to explain why the testing system is so important to the district and to the school"?
It's a mess for Tisch, Elia and Cuomo and they know it.
They want to come down hard on this - you know they do, they're authoritarians and autocrats by nature, temperament and politics - but they can't without fanning the flames of the Opt Out movement even more.
It will be interesting to see how Tisch, Elia and Cuomo handle this going forward.
I suspect they are going to work extra hard to get that 20% opt out rate down for next year - it does all sorts of harm to Cuomo's vaunted APPR teacher evaluation system.
Ah, but given the mess that is the Endless Testing regime, I suspect they're going to have a hard time doing it - especially since the leaders of the Opt Out movement were proven right when they said no money would be withheld from districts or schools for opting out.