More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228;
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)
New York Schools will NOT be Penalized for High Opt-Out Rates, Contrary to Misleading Claims

Since New York State’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan won federal approval, some school district officials, administrators, and advocacy groups have conveyed considerable misinformation about the plan, especially as it relates to students who refuse the State’s ELA and math tests in grades 3-8.

Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member said, “It is disturbing that anyone, especially those who serve children, would intentionally misinform parents and rob them of the information needed to make informed decisions for their children. By using scare tactics and misinformation to suppress opt outs, these individuals and groups are also curtailing parental rights. This is NOT what the Board of Regents and NYSED had in mind when writing the State’s ESSA plan.”

Dr. Michael Hynes, Long Island Superintendent, added, “I believe it is our duty as school superintendents to ensure our parents know the true information regarding their rights to opt out their children for grades 3-8 state assessments. For any school educator to lead parents into believing they don’t have this fundamental right is to act against what they were sworn to uphold as a leader in their community.”

NYC public school parent Kemala Karmen added, “In New York City, representatives of the NYCDOE and even the Chancellor herself have made claims about the consequences of ESSA-era opt out that are patently false. I get that the state’s plan, which runs to over 200 pages, is complicated. However, that doesn’t give the NYCDOE license to speculate on its details and make things up. Shame on them for baseless scare mongering and shame, too, on the media outlets that simply repeat false claims without bothering to dig any deeper.”

According to the New York ESSA plan, NYSED will calculate a school’s proficiency rate in two ways:
1) with participation rate factored in, based on 95% of continuously enrolled students, and counting all opt-out students as having achieved an arbitrary level 1 score. This score is for calculation purposes only and will NOT be assigned to any individual student who opts out; and 2) a more accurate evaluation, with proficiency rate based on the actual number of students tested.

Deborah Brooks, co-founder Port Washington Advocates for Public Education, explained, “Congress legislated the 95% participation rate in direct response to school actors engaging in the malfeasance of systematically excluding low-performing and/or special needs students from the state assessments. The participation rate was always about prohibiting such systematic exclusion and was never about prohibiting parents from exercising their right to refuse the assessments on behalf of their children. Accordingly, punishment is appropriate when and only when a school or district engages in systematic exclusion of children, and not when participation is low due to parents exercising their legal rights.”

The Board of Regents has assured the public that only the higher of these two calculations will be used for state accountability purposes, so that no school will be identified as low-performing simply because of its high opt-out rate, and no students will be judged as failing because they refused to take the state exams.
In addition, the approved New York ESSA plan clearly states that the only schools that must develop a multi-tiered plan to raise participation rates are those whose low participation rates were determined to have resulted from school staff or district officials preventing or excluding students from taking the exams.  Schools whose low participation rates resulted from students opting out based on their parents’ choices will NOT be required to develop any such plan.

“For parents to become strong advocates for their children and partners with their leaders, it is vital that we receive effective communication and that the information we receive is accurate. Parents deserve and expect this, and I am extremely angry that we continue to be misinformed and uninformed​,” Eileen Graham, Rochester parent and Black Student Leadership Organization founder.

Chris Cerrone, a school board trustee, NYSAPE founding member, and parent from Western New York, echoed this sentiment, “Despite media reports to the contrary, a local school district or school that has high opt outs because of parent advocacy, cannot be punished under the New York ESSA plan.”

Jeanette Deutermann, NYSAPE founding member and leader of Long Island Opt out, expanded on that statement. “Schools and districts with high opt-out rates will not lose money, drop in rankings, or be put on any failing list according to the State’s ESSA plan.  Despite the claims of lobbying organizations such as HANY, districts on Long Island with high opt-out numbers have seen a steady increase in real estate values over the past five years, demonstrating that parents value districts and schools that respect their rights to decide whether their children will take the tests.  Not surprisingly, these are also the districts and schools that put children first,” she pointed out.

Jamaal Bowman, parent and Bronx school principal, summed it up: “Opting out does not equal failure. Opting out does not lead to a decrease in funding. Opting out is simply a parent exercising his/her right as a citizen; parents should have a say in their child’s education. With aspects of this new ESSA policy, parents continue to be disenfranchised.”

#OptOut2018 Test Refusal Letter: English​ & Spanish

​NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

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