Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Attributing the Opt Out Movement to Union Influence is Just Plain Bad Reporting -- ahem, NY Times

They're (NYT) a disgrace to journalism. Assuming most of the 200,000+ kids opting out have two adults in their household, we are talking about perhaps half a million public school parents, who by definition are not sitting around with time on their hands randomly wondering what trendy cause to get involved in, who are rising up in civil disobedience against the state's education policies -- and the Times yawns... Jeff Nichols, parent activist, Change the Stakes

Ho hum ….NY Times story http://nyti.ms/1JnXatn  buries the lead and finally gets to NYS opt out numbers in paragraph 19. Doesn’t interview a single parent. And doesn’t even really explore the rift between NYSUT and the UFT which is perhaps the only interesting angle to the story. ... Leonie Haimson

I was surprised–and disappointed–by the front page story in The New York Times on Tuesday, April 21, which reports that opting out is union-led and union-driven.  That was not the case in New Jersey, where the union got involved only late in the game.  The national effort led by Peggy Robertson says it has received no support from either teacher union. The Times’ story cites analysts but no parents.... John Merrow

This article completely misrepresents the reality. The "opt-out movement" in Nee York State has been parent-led, with ever-increasing involvement by teachers and only very recently some union participation. It is not now and never had been about unions "encouraging parents to opt out." This article could only have been written by someone who has been paying no attention at all or who has done kind of pro-"reform" agenda. It leaves the uninformed reader with the impression that self-promoting unions don't care about "accountability" measures designed to protect the poor. Hundreds of thousands of parents in revolt, leading this movement, and this is what the Times has to say? Unbelievable.... Jeff Nichols

The New York Times Misses the Story: Opt Out Came from Parents, Not Unions....  Diane Ravitch

I emailed with one of the reporters before the story was written and gave her the names of some of the parent leaders of the Opt Out movement, some of whom have spent three years organizing parents in their communities. Jeanette Deutermann, for example, is a parent who created Long Island Opt Out. I gave her the names of the parent leaders in Westchester County, Ulster County, and Dutchess County. I don’t know if any of them got a phone call, but the story is clearly about the union leading the Opt Out movement, with nary a mention of parents. The parents who created and led the movement were overlooked. They were invisible. In fact, this story is the only time that the Times deigned to mention the mass and historic test refusal that cut across the state. So according to the newspaper of record, this was a labor dispute, nothing more. Not surprising that this is the view of Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the Board of Regents, and of everyone else who opposes opting out.
Let's call them out. The bad reporting was done by Kate Taylor and Motoko Rich -- why talk about quality teaching when we can't get quality reporting? Or is it bad NY Times pro ed deform ideology operating here?
There's a segment of the mainstream media that is framing the opt out movement as something spurred by the teacher's union, and as such, claiming that it is due to the fact that we want nothing of a fair evaluation. We need to work on our counter frame, since our leadership will not do it... Newsday will go down in history as being on the wrong side of history. It's no coincidence that articles are incorrectly framing the opt out movement within the teacher's union. The tests are NOT valid. I think he needs a few responses.

Jia Lee, MORE
The bad reporting here is by Lane Filler. His Newsday piece has this little stupid nugget:
NYSUT has 600,000 members. How many of the kids who opted out are the children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews of those members? How many more are related to the 300,000 Civil Service Employees Association members in New York, or the other public union members (cops, firefighters, postal workers, etc.) who might support NYSUT out of solidarity? So how many of the families whose kids opted out actually had no dog in this fight?
 Jeez. I emailed Lane - feel free to do so too: lane.filler@newsday.com
The largest component of NYSUT is the UFT with 1/3 of the members and the UFT has stood firm in support of common core, testing, rating teachers based on testing and opposing opt out. Just ask Mulgrew.
I have been part of genuine grassroots opt out parent and teacher movements for over 3 years. We are opponents of the people running our union. To claim the opt out movement is union inspired is just plain bad reporting. Karen Magee came so late to the game. The Long Island opt out movement was going strong before Magee uttered a word and her words only seem to resonate with the anti-union press. Parents do not listen to NYSUT. In fact the strongest small local component of NYSUT that favors opt out is the wing that opposed Magee's election as NYSUT president last year. It is pointless to talk about the union at the state of local level when you really know so little about what is going on.

Better coverage is here, on NY1 by the always reliable Lindsay Christ, a former teacher by the way.http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2015/04/21/leaders-of--opt-out--movement-celebrate-as-sentiment-against-high-stakes-testing-grows.html

If you watched the NY1 video, note parent Charmaine Dixon, a PTA president who invited Change the Stakes to address a meeting and I was one of the reps who spoke - and really enjoyed doing it. I owe Charmaine a NYC Opt Out tee shirt.

UPDATE: Also see WPIX TV report: http://pix11.com/2015/04/22/next-up-math-new-york-students-face-2nd-round-of-common-core-testing/

John Merrow chipped in today on the opt out story - he has come a long way since his NY Times op ed years ago attacking the shit out of teachers and their unions.
As we reported on the NewsHour last month, it’s a ‘perfect storm’ that has brought together the left and the right, generally with very different motives but with a common purpose: slow down or stop the testing machine. Sweeping generalization: Most on the right want to get rid of the Common Core State Standards and anything that smacks of federal control; most on the left believe schools test too much, and this is their moment to draw a line in the sand. As one CCSS testing opponent said, “We are not anti-testing; we are against these tests.”
John has a good blog post today:
Dear Friends and other readers,
Who’s behind the opt out movement?  The New York Times says it’s the teacher unions; my eyes and ears suggest otherwise. But, more to the point, something is happening out there, and it’s an opportunity to rethink the path we are on.  The central question: Just what aspect of education do we most care about holding accountable: students, teachers or schools?  Of course they’re connected, but we have to choose the one that matters most.  The feds and many others in the US focus on using student scores to evaluate teachers.  Other countries assess students in order to assess students!  But what would happen if we focused on holding schools accountable? Is there a pathway to ’Trust but Verify’ in education? I hope you will take a look at this short piece. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/1ID1K71
Thanks, and best wishes,

John Merrow
Learning Matters, Inc.
212.725.7000 x104

My blog:

The Influence of Teachers:

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