<FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 13, 2015
Opt Out to Sharply Rise as NYS Continues to Sacrifice Children
Yesterday, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the results of the 2015 3-8th grade English Language Arts (ELA) & Math exams. ELA scores were essentially flat, and the small increase in Math scores (less than 2 percentage points) was smaller than last year’s modest jump. There was also an increase in the percentage of Level 1 students in ELA, and an unchanged percentage of Level 1 students in Math, suggesting that the ratcheting up of high-stakes is leaving our most struggling students behind.
Test refusals, also known as opt outs, rose to a record number of 222,500, surpassing advocates’ estimates. More New York parents across the state are informed and have said no to the high-stakes testing regime that is disrupting quality education and harming their children. With no relief in sight, opt out figures are expected to grow significantly again this year until damaging education laws and policies are reversed.
Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out said, “How many more children will we sacrifice to a narrow education, excessive testing, and failure, before New York calls a timeout? How many veteran, master teachers will we watch flee the profession before we untie testing from evaluations? How many schools will close before New York State recognizes that public schools are the foundations of every community? Instead of dreaming up sanctions, SED should be working with educators and parents to change course and right this wrong.”
Governor Cuomo, the Regents and SED have been quick to judge teachers through a sham accountability system that wrongfully reduces highly effective teachers to an ineffective rating and claims public schools are failing when, in fact, they are not. But they are slow to accept responsibility for the devastating consequences of these flawed testing and evaluation measures on our children, the teaching profession, and our public schools. Threats of sanctions will not deter opt outs. Parents are onto this sham and will continue to opt out children in order to protect them,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.
Considering the amount of time, resources and money devoted to the state assessment system, the resulting data does little to help pinpoint specific student, educator or school strengths and weaknesses. The entire testing system is a boondoggle to taxpayers and continues to limit our children’s educational opportunities,” stated Chris Cerrone, Erie County public school parent, educator, and school board trustee.
Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent said “Chancellor Merryl Tisch has publicly stated that she would think twice before allowing a child with special needs to sit through an ‘incomprehensible exam’ and has called state exams ‘cruel and unusual’. Yet neither the Board of Regents nor NYSED leadership has taken action to inform parents of their right to refuse harmful testing, let alone curb the eighteen hours of harmful state testing that disabled students as young as eight are compelled to engage in. Until the abuse stops, opt outs will continue.”
Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and General Manager of the BATs stated, “As research shows, test scores will not close the achievement gap. We need to begin to invest in proven strategies that close the gap, or we will lose an entire generation of children.”
The NY State tests are an illegitimate way to evaluate kids, schools and teachers – as shown by the recent NY Times article, in which questions on the 3rd grade exam stumped the author of the relevant passage. These tests are designed to make it look like the vast majority of our students and schools are failing, when they are not. Until the state provides less flawed exams – and a better teacher evaluation system not linked to them – parents will continue to opt out in growing numbers,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.
Pearson has been fired as the state’s test vendor, yet our children will be subjected to their tests for another school year. This is outrageous. If Governor Cuomo and members of the legislature who voted to increase the contribution of test scores to teacher evaluation think this is ok, they should prove it by taking the tests themselves. Let our public officials prove that they are smarter than a 5th grader,” said Nancy Cauthen, a NYC public school parent.
NYSAPE, a grassroots organization with over 50 parent and educator groups across that state, will be calling on parents to hand in test refusal letters on the first day of school in order to reclaim their children’s classrooms and to stop the destruction of our public schools. An updated 2016 test refusal letter is coming soon.