Opt Out? Opt In?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Reportedly, more parents chose to have their children sit out the state ELA exams this week than did last year.  If your kids took the exam, did you consciously "opt in"?  If you opted out, how would you like to see schools held to account for preparing their students to do college level work after graduation? 

Comments [18]

We debated opting our son out. We have a history with our school district that made it appealing to opt out.

After the ELA exams I asked my 5th grader what he thought. He said he really didn't know. One of the first things he said was that if he didn't have to take the exam he would have liked to have said he'd only take the exam if he could read silently afterwards, which our district does not allow. Later he said he would not want to opt out if it would have harmed his teacher in any way. There's definitely a part of him that wants to be tested.

I asked "Do you think the exam measure you against meaningful education?" He said yes, with the exception of a couple of multiple choice questions where multiple answers could be correct and selecting the best answer has more to do with how you think than what you comprehend.

I asked: "Some complain that the exams are too difficult and others complain that preparing for the exams takes away from education. How can both be true?" He said he thinks its just different parents complaining about different things, with the parents of struggling students complaining that the new curriculum is too hard and the parents who want to push their kids harder complaining that the testing takes away from educating.

I asked "Do you think your education suffers because of the exams, or do you think the exam's standards raise the bar for the necessary amount of information required?" He said he didn't know because he doesn't know what it would be like if the exams didn't exist. Regardless of the blame he thought they could be challenged more, especially in math and science.

Apr. 04 2014 03:07 PM
John from NY

Man, most of these commenters have no idea what the issues are. "Don't opt out because you need to prepare the 3rd graders for their SAT" (which is changing ... again.) Don't opt out because you can't opt out of life. Don't opt out because you need to see how much they learned. Etc...

Refuse the tests. Period. It is not my problem the majority of parents did not do their homework about ALL the educational reforms thrusted upon our state. I did. For the last 4 years. It doesn't make me better than you or smarter than anyone. What is does make me is much more informed than most. I made the choice in the best interests of my kids and their teachers and their schools. You made your choice to opt in; many of us choose to refuse.

All of your test takers will simply get a 1, 2, 3, or 4 reported to them in late August or September. You come back to this blog AND ALL THE OTHERS and you explain to us refusers what that score means. Then explain how it will drive instruction in the classroom. (Hint: You can't, but you'll have the summer to research it and come back with some thoughts. While you are researching feel free to learn about: APPR, the history and purpose of CCLS, RttT, NCLB, the way the tests were revised, the massive amounts of data the state collects on students/parents/educators, and what the standards/curriculum/testing are doing to the the special needs kids.)

Apr. 04 2014 10:49 AM
Francis from nyc

First RTI then CBA noe Core Curriculum. the DOE has taken rigorous scientific principals and bastardized them to fit a mold creating a false representation of what the research states.

Apr. 04 2014 07:25 AM

I was very anti-the test going into the school year with my third grader. However, I find that this is the first year that he has been challenged in the classroom. His depth of understanding text has definitely improved, as has his ability to strongly state his opinion with contextual proof with his writing. He has always read above level - but this type of test preparation has helped his writing immensely - which has been a struggle.

The math prep indicates not only an ability to solve problems, but that students understand them and can find several means to solve them. This is so much better than how I learned.

They are drilling skills and means to help solve problems - as well as strategies on testing in general - which is sure to help through his education career and into college.

From our initiation into NYC public school we have heard people arguing about wanting better schools and now that we are getting them - people want to "opt out". Go ahead and opt out. Just don't complain when you aren't getting your top choices for middle and high school.

Apr. 03 2014 03:56 PM
Shelby from Brooklyn

I am a 22 year old. I have no children to opt in or out. However I would like to point out that as a high school student you take the SAT to get into college, which is a standardized test that you begin preparing for in NY state in elementary with required standardized testing. Did I enjoy taking standardized tests in elementary and middle school? No. Does any child enjoy this? No. Is this a "correct" practice? No. However, I did relatively well on standardized tests as a child, I did well on my SAT without much preparation and I did relatively well in college. I took ALL of the standardized tests as well as college prep classes. Was I prepared for college? No. However having information "shoved down children's throats" without teachers having the appropriate amount of time to review it is not so dissimilar to the college experience and IS a worthwhile experience to have.

Opting in and opting out is not the real issue here. The way we as a country approach teaching and the ways in which we prepare children to view school, education, and its role in their life is the key. I would strongly argue that in the current academic system in NY State and in the US as a whole, opting out of standardizes tests puts children at a disadvantage for college.

Some students do very well on standardized tests and some do not. That is a fact. Some students do very well in college and some do not. Another fact. However, a student that knows they do not test well on standardized test will be prepared. My sister does not do well on standardized tests and she knows that she has to study twice as hard. Knowing this, she went into college with the same mentality and has done much better than she would have otherwise as a result.

Like I said, I do not have children, but as a recent college grad who has recently entered the workforce, I do think that standardized tests (as much as a hated them at the time) are one of the few academic experiences that DO prepare us for the "real world," because in your Adult life there isn't an "opt-out" option.

Apr. 03 2014 12:01 PM
Heather from Nyack

I was listening to the show and felt that Mr. Lehrer didn't really understand the depth of the opt out movement. My children have been opting out of the standardized tests since well before the Common Core was initiated. The problem with the tests are many: 1) they reduce real instructional time considerably by replacing critical thinking and in depth education with memorization; 2) the tests interrupt instruction for 6 full instructional days, and 9 days in grades 4 and 8 and in past years have caused the teachers to be missing from the classroom for another 2 weeks for scoring; 3) the scores are not used for children evaluation but for teacher evaluations and they are not an adequate indicator of teacher excellence; 4) they have further impacted the problem by initiating Common Core based tests before the instruction of the new curriculum is implemented and before the tests are adequately field developed and tested, thus the 30 % pass rate State-wide last year; 5) our district alone was awarded only $16,000/yr to implant RTTT, and it is estimated it will cost us 1.2 million dollars to do so. I could go on.

Consistently tying the opt out movement to the Common Core and asking callers over and over why they wouldn't want an increase in rigor in the curriculum more than missed the point. I am an advocate for making our schools as rigorous as possible. I am not an advocate for mandates that pretend to do this and politicians who use the schools to further their careers and their connection to political funds. Watching all the money syphon out of the public schools into the corporate sector, in the name of test prep and data management is not achieving this goal. Mr. Lehrer, this subject is a lot more complicated than you seem to understand, and I would expect NPR to have a much better education when it comes to the state of our public education today.

Apr. 03 2014 12:00 PM
kk from Brooklyn

I not only refused the tests for my kids, but helped organize their schools and even visited other schools to spread the word. Most parents are unaware of their right to direct their children's educations--to say no to the mountains of test prep, to the unfair tying of teacher evaluation to test scores, to the drain of resources out of the classroom and into the hands of the testing industry, etc.

This large-scale organizing has to happen so that parents, like the parent in the Bx who just called in, don't have to feel that they will be hurting their schools by pulling their high-scoring kids out. (My own kids are typically high scorers as well.) If parents organize hard they can bring whole schools with them. This happened in NYC in schools in D2, D15, D23, D13 and perhaps more that I don't know of.

Apr. 03 2014 11:47 AM

"countries like China are catching up and will soon overtake us in everything."

yes, including the number of polluted rivers, the greyness of their skies, the poisons in their food, the crowding of their inner cities. China is welcome to over takes us.

Apr. 03 2014 11:46 AM
luke from Brooklyn

When we sent the letter to our school that our 3rd grader would opt out, The principal called my wife in to discuss. When they met the Principle told my wife that our kid would have to take "a test" anyway as well as uncertainty as to our kid - who has good marks - prospects for grade promotion.
There was no communication school wide from our school's administration about what the process would be when opting out. We learned from a thread that the principal had called in all the opt out parents in for individual meetings where she gave variations of the same low grade "scare"

we were able to confirm to the contrary by our superintendent and organizations like

It seems to me that any program that would encourage a school administrator/educator to give misinformation, is a horrible idea

Apr. 03 2014 11:46 AM
Tim P

all the test prep is the schools trying to cheat by cramming. bad formthe kids, but not because of testing oer se. this is proficiency they should already have and the test will expose hownthe school is doimg.

Apr. 03 2014 11:44 AM

I wonder how many people are boycotting this test, but when it comes to obamacare are telling others just to give it a shot and quit fighting it. Until we're all in, we'll never know if either could really work.

Adult life is full of tests. I'm glad I learned early how to deal with them. Just taking the test is a learning experience that will help kids later on.

Apr. 03 2014 11:44 AM
Pam from brooklyn

the caller just made the case for a lomger school yesr. I'm all for that.

Apr. 03 2014 11:41 AM
Chris from Westchester

I considered having my 3rd grader sit out the tests, since I believe they are meaningless may not be developmentally appropriate, are covering curriculum still being put into place due to the poor rollout of Common Core, only give a snapshot of how well the teachers have prepared the children for the test, among many reasons. HOWEVER, since we are in a school district which has historically not performed at the upper levels (as many neighboring districts do, such as Scarsdale and Edgemont) and my child is a top performer, I felt it would help the district stats. Unfortunately, the reality is even those who know tests are only a poor snapshot of school performance use those same results as a reference when looking to purchase a home.

Apr. 03 2014 11:40 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I just love these anti-human liberals who say that they are "humanitarians" but just hate the idea of being "too many" humans on earth. Liberals are hypocritical idiots. And it's no wonder that "overpopulated" countries like China are catching up and will soon overtake us in everything.

Apr. 03 2014 11:40 AM
BK from Hoboken

Good lord. Te school has "organic evaluations"?! Tests are evil right? Since when is it wrong to figure out who can grasp the English language? Or math? It doesn't matter if you are black white rich or poor- the English language is the English language and math is math. This reminds me of the SAT "re-calibration" about 15 years ago when I was in college. They essentially curve up the bad scores to make slow kids feel smarter. Yaaay! Everyone gets a trophy for participating right?!

Apr. 03 2014 11:37 AM
Katherine Schwarz from Nyack

If we consider that every new child born has an ecological footprint that contributes to climate change and other environmental degradation that are damaging if not destroying the planet, we should not be encouraging more babies being born with tax breaks at all. We should be giving tax breaks for contraceptive use. I myself, as a passionable environmentalist, encourage higher taxes of gasoline, and discourage the tax breaks for owning homes also. I would gladly pay far more income tax for contraceptives and for sex education and environmental education for all!

Apr. 03 2014 11:34 AM
steve from Manhattan

I am VERY against these ELA tests, and very much would have opted out were it about me, but I am not comfortable playing out my politics with regards to my son's schooling. While I don't believe these tests will give me any useful information about my son, I don't see any significant damage from his taking the test and believe that the potential stigma (questions or even teasing from other students) might make him uneasy or feel "left out". I'm just sorry he needs to waste such significant school time with this.

Apr. 03 2014 11:34 AM
Rob from Westchester

'We were planning on opting out until our 3rd graders conference when the teacher said this: "The time to opt out was in Oct. when we started to torture them. He's fine, and he should have an opportunity to practice testing conditions for the first time-even though it's cruel and age inappropriate- to make them sit for this. True Opting out would mean that he wouldn't have been subjected to the prep. The DAMAGE IS DONE."

And damage it was; he was never anxious and avoidant of school until Thanksgiving. I remember the exact day it started and it didn't abate. She was right; The damage was done months ago, The test is just the final blow.

Apr. 03 2014 11:34 AM

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