Thursday, April 3, 2014

Video: Change the Stakes Rocks Opt-Out Movement

“I had people come up to me on the street and explain that their kids were sick this morning going into school, because they knew they have to take the test,” Dromm said.
There is so much opt-out news I can manage to share much of it - stuff is just flying around.

Former teacher and current City Councilman Danny Dromm held a press conference: More Parents Refusing NYC Standardized School Tests.

A parent in touch with Change the Stakes said, "the changes made by the budget bill that lower the stakes for students are part of the solution, but don’t go far enough. It’s also used to evaluate teachers, it’s also used to evaluate schools. I’m not just here for my kids, although I’m very much here for them. I think teachers are an incredibly important part of the society and they’re getting just stepped on all over.”

Right in the middle of all this is our own lil ole Change the Stakes crew who are getting lots of publicity.

I was just talking to Julie Cavanagh tonight, remembering old times and how we met less than 5 years ago through the resistance to charter movement, which spurred us to make our 2011 film response to that awful pro-charter unmentionable film. and how many people locally and nationally it seemed to inspire to take action. And we remembered meeting a parent at one of our film showings who came because she was so upset at the testing her daughter was going to face. She expressed such great emotion at the impact of the film and jumped into the fray - helping organize a committee of GEM we called Change the Stakes (I think Julie may have come up with the name). That parent was/is Janine Sopp, who has become a giant, joined by other giants in CTS. (See Janine Sopp, Opt-Outer).

Janine broke her back working with parents and film maker Michael Elliot to make this promo for opting out.

Last night at the CEC 19 Meeting a parent on the CEC suggested we make our own commercials to counter the Eva ones -- ours would run on You-tube and won't cost $5 million bucks.

Remember those millions of dollars of our UFT dues money spent on tepid commercials? Ho-hum.

Even Charterbeat had an article which features MORE/CTS stalwart woman of steel and stamina, Jia Lee. Less than 2 years ago Jia came to a testing forum GEM put on - with a very pregnant Julie hosting and VROOOM! Jia was the gal on fire. She has become a force of nature in both GEM (she is also chapter leader) and CTS.

And the article mentions Nancy Cauthen whose incredible competence and driving energy make things happen.

You know the lesson of the Janine and Jia and Nancy stories? And even Julie? They got involved because some of us had built some structural organizations taking action that provided a place for them to hang their hats and the freedom for them to flourish. Build it and they will come. But you don't build it by sitting at the keyboard. If you think you do you are under an illusion. It takes organizers to make stuff happen - face to face.

Here is s piece of the chalkbeat piece on Jia -- did they link to the CTS website like they used to with E4E? Did they even think to mention
For Jia Lee, a critic of the state’s standardized tests who teaches at the Earth School and has a son there, the decision to opt her child out of this year’s exams was a “no-brainer.”
But Lee felt she could do more, so she and two of her colleagues at the East Village public school decided to refuse to administer this year’s state tests.
The teachers had already drafted a letter to the schools chancellor explaining their decision when they were called into their school office last week. Enough families had opted their children out of the tests, the teachers were told, that they did not need to proctor the exam — the teachers’ planned boycott was trumped by their students’. So on Tuesday, the first of six state-exam days, all but a handful of Lee’s students worked on a project about immigration instead of taking the test.
As the number of parents who opt out their children grows, and as test scores play a role in teacher evaluations for the first time, educators like Lee are being drawn into their protest. Some are simply providing logistical information to parents; others are sharing their concerns about over-testing; and still others, including Lee, are opting out their own children or, in some cases, even encouraging other parents to.
“We’re hoping that more teachers will realize that there’s empowerment in saying, ‘We don’t want to be a part of this,’” Lee said.
The number of city families opting out of state tests this year is poised to hit a record high, one year after new tests tied to the Common Core standards resulted in vastly lower scores. While just 276 students opted out citywide last year, nearly 640 students have already opted out this year just among six schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan, according to parents and teachers. The advocacy group Change the Stakes estimates that 1,000 students or more may decline to take this year’s test — a tiny portion of the city’s test-takers, but a huge increase from years past.
Many families are opting out despite pushback from their schools. At least 50 parents told Change the Stakes that school administrators discouraged them or told them children who skip the tests might be penalized, according to parent leader Nancy Cauthen. Responding to the growing tension within schools, Chancellor Carmen FariƱa — who herself has expressed reservations about test boycotts — last week told principals to “respect the parents’ decision” if they decide to keep their child from taking the tests.
But at many of the opt-out hotspots, educators are offering support — both explicit and tacit — to families that are choosing to have their children sit out the tests.
Several schools held information sessions for parents who expressed interest in opting students out of the tests. In most cases, educators at those schools were “scrupulous” about offering information about testing while remaining neutral on the question of opting out, said Jessica Blatt, a parent at Brooklyn’s Arts and Letters Academy, where 83 percent of third graders are not taking the tests.
But educators’ comments at the meetings signaled that they were sympathetic to testing concerns — and emphasized that there would likely be no significant consequences for families who opted out, according to people who attended and records of the meetings.
Parents at the Earth School organized meetings where middle school principals explained that students’ lack of test scores would not be held against them in the admissions process, Lee said. At another forum for parents, Lee and other teachers described the impact of testing on their classrooms, she said. Some 57 percent of Earth School students are not taking this year’s tests.

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