New York State began 2016 Common Core aligned English-Language Arts testing on April 5. On Long Island, a major opt-out center, thousands of students refused to take the tests. Based on a survey that included 60% of Long Island school districts, Newsday estimated that 58,000 out of a potential 115,000 test-takers in third through eighth grade, a little more than half the eligible students, sat out the tests. In one district, Patchogue-Medford, over 70% of the students refused to take the tests. Preliminary reports in the Hudson Valley region showed that thousands of families were having their children opt-out of the exams. Critics have dismissed the opt-out movement as limited to White parents who are over-protective of their kids. However at Westbury Middle School on Long Island, where 97% of the students are Black and Latino, half the students opt-out of the tests this year, compared to only 2% in 2015.
The Network for Public Education (NPE) has endorsed a call for a national "opt-out" of this year's Common Core aligned high-stakes testing because of the harmful effects of annual high-stakes testing on children and schools. According to the NPE call "there is no conclusive evidence that NCLB high-stakes testing has improved the academic performance of any student--particularly those who need the most help. All that has been closed by testing are children's neighborhood schools." The tests, as U.S. Secretary of Education and former New York's Education Commissioner John King concedes are basically designed so that 70% of students will fail, with much higher percentages among students with disabilities, English Language learners, and children who live in poverty. Fairfield University Professor and NPE Board member Yohuru Williams argues these tests, which are manifestly unfair to the neediest children, feeds into racial determinism in American society while closing doors of opportunity for Black and Latino children.
NPE is also concerned that "data derived from high-stakes testing is intended to undermine our public schools by creating a false narrative of failure. Once public schools are closed, they are replaced by privately managed charter schools, with insufficient public oversight."
The national opt-out is supported by Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, agreed: "As shown in New York state, where 240,000 parents opted out last year, opting out is the most effective strategy parents have to protest, disrupt and dismantle the punitive agenda of high-stakes testing, Common Core and privatization that is undermining our public schools and hurting our kids. Moreover, parents should know that the personal student data being collected through the PARCC and SBAC exams have few if any privacy protections. Most of their children's exams, including their writing samples, will be scored via computers, which is not a fair, reliable or valid method of assessing their abilities."
Despite claims that the new federal ESSA law reduces emphasis on high-stakes testing, companies are scrabbling to make money off of the Common Core tests. The latest big entries seeking to profit from the testing bonanza are the SAT and ACT testing companies. At the same time that U.S. colleges are increasingly deciding not to use these tests as admission requirements, the companies are entering the secondary school market. Thirteen states are either currently using, planning to use, or considering using these tests to satisfy ESSA mandates. Scott Marion, the executive director of the Center for Assessment, a nonprofit organization that helps states design and evaluate tests, accuses the SAT and ACT of a "land grab," "It's a little like the Gold Rush."
The Network for Public Education is holding its 3rd annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina from April 16-17. For more information on how to opt out, NPE recommends United Opt Out's State by State resources and FairTest's: Just Say No to the Test.
Save Our Schools, United Opt Out, the Network for Public Education, BAT (Bad Ass Teachers), and several other organizations are sponsoring a March for Public Education and Social Justice in Washington DC at the Lincoln Memorial on July 8.