Why the Opt-Out Movement is Growing in New York
Last week, tens of thousands of children sat out the New York State Common Core English Language arts exams as their parents’ frustrations pushed them to finally boycott the test. In some districts, over 50% of students sat out the test with over 175,000 children opting out in grades 3-8. And that percent is expected to increase this week as schools gear up to administer the Math exams.
Why is the Opt-Out Movement Growing?
So what’s the big deal? If standardized tests have been around for decades, what is so different now?
The first reason – social media. With more and more parents connected online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other networking sites, information spreads like wildfire. Just search for hashtag #iammorethanascore or check out The Bald Piano Guy’s “Opting Out” song (played to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Moving Out”.
Many parents have also formed Facebook groups to coordinate everything from field trips to homework help. Coordinating a boycott is no different and websites have sprung up detailing exactly how to have your child opted out.
What are the Concerns?
Although certainly not an exhaustive list (see sources below for more information), here are some of the main reasons New Yorkers are frustrated.
- The exams are not age appropriate.
Many argue they are too long with reading levels far above the grade tested. For example, 9 year-olds are sitting through over 500 minutes of testing over six days attempting to analyze passages several grades above what’s appropriate.
- Pearson’s tests aren’t valid and their practices are unfair.
Ever since the Pineapple debacle, Pearson has been criticized for confusing questions on their state exams. Corporate influence over public education has many worried. Since Pearson took over the standardized testing in New York, there has been far less transparency. The full exams are no longer released after the testing dates and schools that purchase Pearson’s Common Core materials have a huge advantage – especially since Pearson reportedly uses passages from their instructional materials on the exams.
- The exams provide no useful data.
Parents, students, and teachers can never see the actual results of the tests. They receive a score of 1,2,3 or 4 based on levels that can change drastically from year to year. Therefore, there’s no way to truly see a child’s progress. What constitutes a “2” this year may have been well into the “3” range last year. Also, children and parents are not allowed to see how they scored on specific questions, and the child’s teacher doesn’t even receive any data on what skills they need to work on.
- The scores are used irresponsibly.
The state test scores are primarily used in teacher evaluations despite criticism from many that the exam is not a valid assessment tool.
- Parents resent reducing their child’s education to a test score in only two subjects.
Parents want schools to focus on the individual, specific needs of their child – not the statistical demands of the government officials currently in power.
How do you feel about high-stakes standardized tests? And
do you think a boycott is the right way to achieve change?
Photo Credit: Todd Stahl