Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Buffalo News Editorial: Parents Who Opt Kids Out Of Tests Are Being "Hoodwinked" By Teachers Unions

The opt out movement is parent-created, parent-led, has been around for a couple of years now and has been growing by the year.

For years, the teachers unions took little notice of the opt out movement and certainly never lent it any public support - until this year when NYSUT President Karen Magee changed course and suggested parents could opt their children out the state tests in order to starve the state of the data it needs for its education reform agenda.

In short, the opt out movement has existed for a long, long time without the support or acknowledgement of the teachers unions or their functionaries like Alliance For Quality Education or Working Families Party.

It is only since Governor Cuomo shoved through an unpopular education reform agenda (and the polling bears just how unpopular that agenda is - see here and here) that NYSUT, AQE, and WFP have jumped onto the opt out movement and lent it support.

Despite these facts, the Buffalo News published an editorial yesterday claiming that parents who are opting their children out of the Common Core state tests this year have been "hoodwinked" by the self-serving propaganda of the teachers unions:

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Improvement means change and New York State United Teachers are not much into that.

That’s why the unconscionable push by the state teachers union to get parents to opt their children out of state math and reading testing is so destructive. Ultimately, it hurts students, districts and the state, itself.

Parents are being hoodwinked and New York State United Teachers is the single most influential force behind the push.

As a recent News article by Denise Jewell Gee reported, an estimated 60,000 students refused to take state math and reading tests across the state last year. Now, anti-testing organizers hope to grow those numbers to 250,000 – about 20 percent of the third- through eighth-graders in the state – this month.
Ill-informed parents are being guided by groups large and small but none as powerful and well-financed as the New York State United Teachers, which has charted a roadmap to insubordination.

While not directly prodding parents until Monday, when President Karen Magee went public with her admonition that parents opt out of the exams, NYSUT has since January thinly veiled its intentions by providing detailed information to parents about their rights and potential consequences.

Those consequences can vary, as outlined in The News article. However, not taking the tests deprives state officials an accurate picture of progress. State Education Chancellor Merryl Tisch is absolutely right: “Why would you not want to know whether all students are making progress, not just the lucky few?”

Speaking of the disparities that are made clear through testing, a quick glance at a News chart showing graduation rates, English and math assessment for 2013-14 at the five Buffalo Public Schools in line to come under a new turnaround strategy speaks volumes. At Buffalo Elementary School of Technology, 4 percent of students scored proficiently on math assessments, up from 2 percent the previous year. The English Language Arts assessments logged 4 percent of students scoring proficiently, down from 5 percent the previous year. At Futures Preparatory, 1 percent of students scored proficiently, down from 2, and 0 percent of students scored proficiently in math, the same as the previous year.

Those are stark numbers but they have to be known in order to advocate for and to formulate plans for useful change. It’s not enough to clamor for more money. To be sure, adequate resources are key to education. But New York has been shoveling money into education for decades; even with cuts in recent years, New York spends more on education per student than any other state. Plainly, money is not the fundamental issue.

There is apprehension by teachers unions about having the tests linked to performance. Parents should be aware of the full measure of that concern and how they might unwittingly help in the delinking of test scores to evaluations.

In other words, this is not just about their children’s education. It is about job security for teachers. Is it fair to put that kind of pressure on a third-grader?

Students will face a myriad of challenges when they get older. Teaching them that they don’t have to do things they don’t like to do fails to serve them in the long run. Life doesn’t work that way; not for most people, anyway.

Some parents are worried about overtesting. It is fair to continue looking at the system to see if it can be made more efficient. The same is true for how the state evaluates teachers. Both should be seen as works in progress. However, it is foolish to expect predictable improvement without evaluation.

The lies and misinformation in this editorial are simply breathtaking.

Mitchell Rubenstein, a commenter on the editorial, does an excellent job of dispensing with them:

The opt-out movement began with concerned parents, NOT with the unions. The tests do NOT provide an "accurate picture of progress", as this article incorrectly states. Parents opting out of the tests are not ill-informed. I routinely argue the policy details with educators, policy wonks and politicians. The "ill-informed" people are the poor excuses for "journalists", who regurgitate Meryl Tisch's talking points without ANY critical analysis.

The assessments have been PROVEN to be an invalid measure of student or teacher progress. There is no reason that students should be wasting their time sitting for them. See the research published by the American Statistical Society, a well respected, professional, and unbiased group, which methodically proves the tests are useless measures when it comes to teacher evaluation.

The Democrat and Chronicle has an article where actual parents talk about why they're opting their children out of the state tests and none of them sound like they've been "hoodwinked" by the teachers unions.

Instead they sound like parents concerned with the damage the Endless Testing regime and the poor Common Core rollout is doing to their children.

The job of editorial boards is to spew the lies, misinformation and propaganda of the elites down to the masses.

This Buffalo News editorial certainly does that.

We see similar editorials from the Daily News, the NY Post, Newsday, the NY Times and other papers around the state that carry water for the education reform movement (only LoHud doesn't carry water for education reform) - but I haven't yet seen an editorial as breathtakingly deceptive as this one.

That the deform shills at the Buffalo News feel the need to get this shrill and deceptive tells us a couple of things:

First, the editorial board at the Buffalo News have no problem lying to the public in order to push their agenda. 

Subscribers to the newspaper should think about that the next time their subscription payment comes due.

Second, the education reformers in this state, from the politicians like Cuomo and Hochul to the political functionaries like Regents Chancellor Tisch to the water carriers like the newspaper editorial boards are scared witless that the opt out movement is going to take off like never before and put a shiv into the Endless Testing regime they so love.

In the end, the shriller they get, the more worried they are.


  1. One of the keys to the opt-out movement here in the city was a decision we made in GEM, mostly a teacher group, to organize a Change the Stakes committee which began to attract parents and eventually spun off into its own organization, while the teacher wing of GEM went on to form MORE. CTS linked to other orgs in the city and state that are fighting high stakes testing. CTS was instrumental - with Time Our From Testing in organizing the pineapple rally at Pearson 2 or 3 years ago. The only teachers in the city who have formed teachers of conscience refusing to give the test are MORE teachers. My point here is that things are never as spontaneous as they seem. It takes people doing the organizing work -- lots of meetings, etc -- but also some political vision outside the UFT straightjacket -- building organizational structures so people have a place to contact people and grow a movement. That working teachers and parents - even though so few - are willing to take on these tasks as volunteers is mind-blowing. Unlike astroturfs no one gets paid a dime - and in effect fund these groups on their own. Because groups like MORE and CTS are true grassroots they also struggle to find a path to democratic decision making. I can't tell you how many emails fly around every day on CTS and MORE steering. Sometimes I wonder how far these groups would get if even a tiny fraction of teachers and parents joined in and began to put some serious effort into building them. The opt out movement here in the city would be going much further if there were enough people to do the essential hard work of reaching out to more schools. The UFT has a lock on the door to access and the only way in is when a teacher or parent gets in touch.

    1. What numbers do we need state-wide to toss things off the rails for the evaluations?

      How likely are we to get those numbers, and then sustain them?

      I realize that for us, like 5% invalidates all of the data intellectually, but what are the numbers that would be unable to be ignored by the State people?

      I mean, I don't think so are so focused on the data being legit. I don't think they care so much. They only care enough to make the data SEEM legit for a large bulk of the population. But as far as actual validity, they've not been in that intellectual pool for some time. Like 30 or 40% could opt out and they'll can still say F U, we are going to rate you on it anyway. Of course people then say "oh but that wouldn't fly in the courts!" We are assuming that A) the courts are bastions of reason, and B) the courts aren't manned by many many many Cuomo-camp, teacher-hating judges.
      Thats all it takes in a society to do really shitty things: 1) a few scattered numbers to pimp as data, and enough folks mildly buying it, and 2) a good bulk of judges on the side of the person/group being shitty. (its not like there isn't a long and deep history of judges being bought off, corrupted, politicized, and entrenched.)

      So I dunno.

    2. I asked my regional NYSUT rep this question. She said that on a NYSED website that 60% participation is the minimum for using test score data to evaluate teachers. Then she added that NYSED would probably ignore that and use whatever they get. No one seems to have a proper answer to this important question. Leads me to believe there is no answer. And if its not in the LAW it doesn't matter. I doubt a % like this is in the 900 page budget.

    3. Well yeah, exactly the point I was sort of getting after. As important as opt-out is, in my mind for kind of setting the political table on the issue, its NOT a game changer or something that will appreciably change NYS teachers' new reality.

    4. Also opt out getting 40% statewide is a frickin outlandish longshot. No chance. 15% would be a stretch, no?

    5. If 60% were the actual % that invalidated test scores, we would still have a wide variation of opt-outs per teacher being evaluated. They would not do a state average, they would play it for each individual teacher. Making this one half-assed mess.
      No wonder we are not considered a profession.

      Just got a robo-call from Karen Magee asking parents to opt out of state tests. She said NYSUT continues to fight invalid testing. Teachers still must be cooperative and compliant. For a second I thought this was going to be the call to boycott.

    6. You are absolutely right. Opt-out cannot be a legal game changer. unless there is a statutory law stipulating so. Now we know there is no such law, because they don't care one whit about test validity, VA or SLO validity or anything else related to a fair and proper evaluation system.

      No there is one slim ray of possible hope I have been thinking about this NCLB clause:

      "Scientifically based research (SBR) is the required standard in professional development and the foundation of academic instruction under the guidelines of No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).[1]

      The definition of what should be considered to be "scientifically based" has been the subject of a great deal of controversy, particularly relating to the Reading First program authorized under NCLB. The first time the concept appeared in Federal legislation was in the Reading Excellence Act, and subsequently the term appeared in the Comprehensive School Reform program authorized for many years on the annual appropriations bills.

      NCLB, however, marked the first time that the idea that education practice should be scientifically based became a central feature of major federal education legislation. Within the Act, the Reading First program became the standard bearer for this concept – or its misapplication. After publishing a series of 7 reports on the mismanagement of Reading First – and referring the matter to the Justice Department – the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) requested that the US Congress clarify what is meant by scientifically based, and whether it is sufficient to contain elements that have been researched, or whether it's necessary for a program's efficacy to have itself been researched."

      There is no way that Cuomo's crap could meet this legal standard. If the SBR clause is retained in the NCLB re-write, we just might have serious legal recourse to repeal this shit.

  2. If you were fortunate enough right now to be standing over George Orwell’s grave in the sweet garden of the churchyard at Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, you would hear, piercing the roar of his revolving corpse, a plaintive, despairing voice crying out: “Bury me deeper. Now. Please.”

  3. She pulled the 60% number out of her ass.

    1. I think that is closer to the real answer to all this. Numbers being pulled from asses. NYSUT's ass. NYSED's ass. Regents' Ass. Cuomo's Ass. Number being pulled from asses. Ass numbers. The state of public education in NY: Ass numbers.

    2. NYSUT, NYSED, BOR, CUOMO ass numbers.
      You forgot divide the 4 ass number by the Common Core Constant: 8.

      That gets us on BIG, HALF-ASSED evaluation.

    3. All I know is that, you know, on the street, if someone wanted to steal my livelihood, my pay, my healthcare, etc, with a gun made of ASS NUMBERS, well....I'd beat them to a pulp with a rock.

      Sometimes we get lost in all this and forget what's really up.

      The forces arrayed against us want to literally take our (relative) prosperity and redistribute it upwards. It's thievery. That's all. And they are carrying it out with ass numbers and bullshit. The lines are clear.

      Sounds like a winnable fight.

      Thanks for the help NYSUT/UFT/AFT. And F You.

    4. You crystallized it - one BIG, HALF-ASSED evaluation with numbers pulled out of various posteriors.

  4. Remember you can't spell STATE ASSEMBLY without ASS

  5. The Buffalo News is a joke among jokes when it comes to fellating the corporate ed reformers and spewing their entire manifesto. Enjoy this as a B-Lo Nooze education reporter pleads with Charter Landlord and Board Member Carl Paladino to forgive her and take her calls again. The kicker is Paladino tells her to piss off.

    1. Most editorial boards carry the water for the ed reformers. Newsday's got one today too. DN is just as bad. To be an editorial writer, you have to a) have no soul b) be willing to lie and deceive for your boss's agenda.

  6. We can't expect opt out to turn the tide this year. This is a long time project. 2 years ago I think we had 4 parents in the city opt out. Think of it as growth scores. Keep the attacks growing and eventually try to reach critical mass. They will come up with all sorts of ways to try to kill the movement. What they are doing now is a sign that it is all working.

    1. I agree. The idea here is to expose the absurdity of the accountability system along with the damage the Endless Testing regime is doing to children and their education.

    2. They might try to kill it by lowering cut scores. Or the ESEA/NCLB re-write will allow NY to abandon the Common Core standards