A clip from The Nation:
". . . .As standardized testing has grown, so too has its shadow. In 2011, the United Opt Outmovement was established to counter the pro-testing mania sweeping the country. Its website provides opt-out guides for forty-nine states and the District of Columbia, and connects a burgeoning community of grumbling and disaffected parents.
“I didn’t ask for high-stakes testing,” says Tim Slekar, United Opt Out’s founder. Slekar sees participating in a large-scale opt-out movement as a way for him and his children to “reclaim public education.”
United Opt Out currently claims 6,000 members, but Slekar says its ranks are ballooning. “I’ve spoken to more parents in the last three weeks than in the past three years.”
In New York, dozens of grassroots organizations have emerged to address testing. Parent advocates recently formed New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) to serve as an umbrella group. The organization draws together parents from big cities and sleepy byways, united in “seeing the damage to the kids,” says NYSAPE co-founder Chris Cerrone.
In the tiny West New York district where Cerrone’s children go to school, the number of students opting out rose sixfold between 2012 and 2013. At Springville Middle School, enough students boycotted to trigger NCLB’s Adequate Yearly Progress alarms.
NYSAPE has scrutinized state opt-out procedures and found New York has no provision for addressing student test refusal. The knowledge that students can forgo tests without individual repercussions has emboldened parents across the state.
In schools from Long Island to Albany, from the Adirondacks to Lower Manhattan, students pushed their pencils aside and refused state tests this past spring. It was a high-water mark for the opt-out movement in New York, but still totaled less than 1 percent of students.
The question remains as to whether boycotts that exceed 5 percent of a school’s population, and thus preclude schools from making Adequate Yearly Progress, can invite consequences. National testing advocacy group Fairtest treads cautiously here.
Chris Cerrone calls it “a myth,” however, pointing to the fact that despite increasing opt outs, no school in New York has lost funding due to student test refusal. But it’s still unclear.
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On October 27, eight days after the Castle Bridge boycott went public, the Chief Academic Officer of New York City schools told a state Senate committee that the K-2 bubble tests the city had selected in August were “developmentally inappropriate.” He indicated that the city would move towards “performance assessments” in these grades, noting that the new state teacher evaluation law mandates some form of assessment in these grades.
It’s the latest in a series of conciliatory gestures by the Department of Education toward parents and educators who’ve been raising hackles for years.
Some of the most aggressive pushing on testing recently comes from grassroots anti-testing group Change the Stakes. Incited by the perceived onslaught of Common Core–aligned state tests, the group published sample opt-out letters and rallied parents at numerous schools in support of a boycott.
This knowledge is empowering. Parents at Castle Bridge delighted at the realization that they could yank their kids from tests. Don Lash, parent of a Castle Bridge first-grader, said “just being aware there was an alternative” was a revelation. . . ."