NYSED and the Fear Machine, revisited

You might recall my post–my reaction–to the memo that NYSED sent to all schools across New York State back in January.  If not, you can read that here, and also read the memo itself.

The opt out movement is growing!  Across the state, more and more families are saying NO to the overuse of standardized testing in our public schools.  Parents across the nation are questioning the value of these tests and growing tiresome at the countless hours spent administering tests and prepping for them.  We are sick of creativity and innovation being stripped away from our children’s education.  And we’ve had enough with programs being cut while precious resources are being funneled into the expensive corporate-driven testing system.  In a powerful gesture of civil disobedience, we are opting our children out of this testing craze or teaching them to do so themselves.

Opting out is a bold move, and it can be scary.  Some school administrators have been wholeheartedly supportive, while others have been entirely difficult.  Most schools just don’t know how to react, as they are stuck in the middle.  It is true that they are required to administer these tests.  But there is no law stating that our children have to take them!  There is much confusion, and NYSED’s fear tactic memo only adds to it.  And in a way it has worked.  More and more schools are responding to parents’ opt-out letters stating it is not an option.  Parents are unsure what to do.  And it makes matters more uncomfortable when the dialogue with one’s school must become a battle.

But I urge you!  If you decide to opt out, be strong.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.

A member of New York’s opt-out group called NYSED to inquire directly about their threats and this is what he learned:

I called Mr. Katz two days after the memo was released to specifically discuss the statement that says, “The failure to comply with the requirements provided above will have a negative impact on a school or school district’s accountability, as all schools are required to have a 95% participation rate in State testing.” Steven Katz could not answer one single question that I had, so I was transferred through 8-10 different people until I finally talked with Shibu Joseph from the Office of Accountability. Mr. Joseph was very helpful. He reports directly to Assistant Commissioner Ira Schwartz and has first hand knowledge.

There is NO direct negative financial impact on a school district that does not meet the 95% participation rate as explained through the ESEA Flexibility Waiver. There could be an indirect negative financial impact only for Title I schools because if a Title I school is listed as a “Focus School” then they have to set aside 5-15% of their Title I funding into a “set aside” account for special improvement projects. By not meeting the 95% participation rate they could be listed as a “Focus School”. However, if they are already listed as a “Focus District” then there would be no further penalty. And remember, it ONLY applies to Title I schools. The lawyers I have contacted are saying that if a school district is going to lose this Title I money SOLELY because parents opted-out of testing, the courts would most likely rule in favor of the parents. Children have a right to free public education and if NYSED is going to require monies be set aside for Title I schools because parents are standing up for their children then the courts would most likely intervene and stop the “set aside”.

Our member went on to add this:

Remember, you don’t need permission from the adminstrators at your child’s school in order to opt-out. Of course, it is always better if we can maintain a positive relationship with administrators, but in the end it is your child. They cannot force your child to take the test. My attorney says it would be an easy lawsuit if they tried to force a child to take the test after you put it in writing. But, of course, we don’t want to take our school districts to court if we don’t have to. My children’s school district has not been as cooperative as I have hoped. But my 2 daughters are still not going to take any tests, and they are not going to sit for any make-up tests either. And, honestly, even if a Title I school falls below 95% partitcipation rate I don’t think that NYSED will impose the 5-15% “set-aside”. If they are going to penalize 95% of children because 5% didn’t take the test then that would be an easy court case as well. Plus they don’t want to be on the front page of the newspaper for denying funding to 95% of children when 5% were standing up for a good cause.

Smart advice!  And I agree.  My children will never take any of these tests.  NEVER.  Period.  Furthermore, my children will never take any corporate-driven benchmark or progress-monitoring assessments as well.

We must not be bullied.  We must not second-guess ourselves.  It is more important than ever to opt-out.  To join the conversation, we’re at http://www.facebook.com/groups/OptOutNewYork/ or search for your state’s opt out group, or join the national movement here http://www.facebook.com/groups/unitedoptout/

Our numbers are growing.  Our message is strong.  Are you in?


2 thoughts on “NYSED and the Fear Machine, revisited

  1. Pingback: NYSED and the Fear Machine, just one last post! | The Plain Satisfactions

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