Friday, April 12, 2013
Opting out of testing: NO consequences for children, teachers or schools this year
Dear parents: I know there is a lot of anxiety and concern about the upcoming ELA state tests next week, which are supposed to be more difficult than ever.
The DOE has contributed to this anxiety with memos to parents that advise them to tell their children that the tests “are meant to be really hard. That’s because that are designed to measure whether students are on track for college and a good job when they finish high school…That way his teachers can make sure he is on his way to being whatever he wants to be when he grows up.”
At the same time, the Commissioner and Chancellor have said that they expect that the majority of children will flunk these exams; and that in certain districts up to 80% of students are expected to score below grade level. As Walcott put it, “It’s time to rip the Band-aid off.”
I was out on Long Island on Wed. at a forum at Hofstra on Long Island, where parents are rising up en masse against the testing regime, and where teachers, principals and superintendents openly agree that the overwhelming focus on standardized high stakes testing is harming their schools, hurting their children, and is likely to stand in the way of preparing students for college. Video here. As of this afternoon, the Long Island opt out Facebook page had 6,280 members.
I am going to write about this extraordinary forum soon; but wanted to share with you first an email from NYC public school parents, Anne Stone and Jeff Nichols, who met with DOE Deputy Chancellor Suransky today; the letter is below. It should reassure you if you do indeed decide to opt your child out of the testing this year – it reaffirms that neither your child, nor his teachers, or the school is likely to suffer any consequences for doing so. More information about how to opt out is on the Change the Stakes website.
Another reason you might want to consider this: As Willa Powell, an elected school board member from Rochester NY announced today, she is opting her child out, in part because of the inBloom data sharing scheme:
“Data from state exams, including information about specific identifiable children, are being forwarded to a corporation (namely inBloom) without parental consent. “It seems… that pending legislative or court remedies, the only recourse parents have is to refuse to allow their children to become “data points”.
…(The ) state education department can impose testing upon our institution, and demand that principal and teacher evaluations be based on the results "But as a parent, and let me be very clear that I am speaking as a parent, in terms that even a pre-schooler can understand: Dr. King, you aren't the boss of me."”
Anne and Jeff’s letter about their meeting with Suransky is below. Have a good weekend, and talk to you soon. ---Leonie
From: Jeff Nichols <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: April 12, 2013 2:42:03 PM EDT
Thank you for meeting with Anne and me this morning. We found the meeting informative and feel it achieved the purpose for which I contacted you initially a couple of weeks ago, which was to confirm that although New York State has no formal opt-out provision for the state tests, there are no negative consequences to children, teachers and schools that result from any family's decision to withhold their children's participation.
To summarize what we now understand to be the case:
CONSEQUENCES FOR CHILDREN
1) Children who do not take the state tests will receive a portfolio review for purposes of promotion, and there will be no prejudice against their standing within the school resulting from the test refusal. Moreover, all other aspects of the child's status, such as IEPs, will also be unaffected.
2) Middle and high schools that use state test scores as part of their admissions process do so at their discretion. Parents of fourth and seventh graders opting out of the tests should contact the schools to which they are applying to confirm the admissions criteria of individual schools.
CONSEQUENCES FOR TEACHERS
1) The exact role of student test scores in evaluating teachers is still under negotiation, but this year teachers' evaluations will be unaffected by the absence of test scores from their students.
2) The DOE is seeking to move to a balanced and flexible model for teacher evaluations that will contain a component of quantitative data (among them but not exclusively test scores) but will remove incentives to "teach to the test."
CONSEQUENCES FOR SCHOOLS
1) If a school in good standing does not achieve the 95% threshold of student test-takers, the failure to meet that number will not adversely affect the school. Even for schools considered in need of improvement, a change of status triggered by the 95% rule has no deleterious consequences. Parents considering opting their children out of tests on moral and educational grounds do not need to worry that this action taken on behalf of their children will harm their school.