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.