Recently this PDF was sent to all New York State school districts.
To summarize, the New York State Education Department is telling schools that students may not opt out of state assessments, and that if a school fails to reach a 95% participation rate, something bad will happen.
But what? They don’t say. What are the sanctions? What are the consequences? And furthermore, why did NYSED feel the need to circulate this memo?
I’ll tell you why! They are scared because the opt-out movement is growing! And they are playing the heavy-handed game of fear mongering in an attempt to nip our movement in the bud.
In almost every conversation I’ve had about opting out, the question arises, “If I opt out, what will that mean for my school? Will my school be punished financially?” And that seems to be New York State’s ace in their pocket. But will they play it? The fact is, we just don’t know. It certainly is a big threat.
But for me personally, this is a risk I am willing to take. Let’s imagine that 6% of students opt-out, causing a school to fail to reach its 95% participation rate. What else can New York State take away? All the good stuff in school is already being reduced or eliminated due to budget cuts because of the focus on tests and assessments. Many schools are already missing recess, art, music, PE, and other valuable programs. School has already been reduced to mindless hours of test prep and test taking.
NYSED has wagered its threat. And now it is crucial that we do NOT back down. Let’s make them play their card! Many schools are far from seeing a 6% opt out rate. But if they do, it will be big news. And I believe that parents will win in the court of public and media opinion. Let’s see NYSED cut our schools then.
NYSED’s memo makes it sound like this is law and any parent who dares question their policy will receive immediate sanctions. It’s not law. There is no law stating that parents can’t opt their children out. NYSED governs schools, not parents. In fact, here is NYSED’s disclaimer from their own website regarding the Commissioner of Education’s policies and regulations:
Disclaimer: These Rules of the Regents and Regulations of the Commissioner of Education (“regulations”) are unofficial, and are presented for general informational purposes as a public service. Although reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that these regulations are current, complete and accurate, the State Education Department does not warrant or represent that they are current, complete and accurate. These regulations are subject to change on a regular basis. Readers are advised to consult Title 8 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (8 NYCRR), published by the Department of State, and the State Register for the official exposition of the text of these regulations, as well as for amendments and any subsequent changes or revisions thereto.
You see folks… they are “unofficial.” Enough said. Opt out now and spare your children the horror of sitting through another state-‘mandated’ test. NYSED has puffed itself up to make its point. Now it’s time to make ours. If they believe that this memo will decrease the number of students opting out, let us prove them wrong. Let us grow our numbers beyond their comprehension!