Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Opt Out reports from the field -

It's an anti-testing tsunami... Daily News

Just watched Ravitch and Tisch on MSNBC. Tisch is one very ignorant, arrogant and harmful human being.... former Fairport Supt Bill Cala

Here's a quick compendium of news and views as they came in today and tonight from MORE and CTS people. But first a word from our sponsor:

In addition to sharing your opt out numbers (please include school name & # and district #), please let us know about any interference with refusals. Were kids asked to verbally refuse even after parents had sent letters? Any other last-minute obstacles to refusing the tests? Feel free to send any such reports to NYCOptOut@gmail.com. You don't have to identify the school if you're not comfortable doing so. Thanks!

Now back to our program.

Testing news in Eva World: Overheard a Success Academy teacher telling her students how disappointed she was in them this afternoon, loudly in the hallway. She continued by saying that if they did not get 4's tomorrow and Thursday, they would not pass the test. Real nice! -- from a co-located public school teacher 
That is AWESOME! The reports coming in statewide are incredible! No wonder NYSED was scared and engaging in so many last-minute ploys to dissuade parents from opting opt... report from cts
The numbers aren't important. The trend is. And it's overwhelming. Year to year -- are we doubling, tripling or in order-of-magnitude territory? Let's remember, thousands upon thousands still believe the draconian and totally empty threats from state officials and are held in compliance by fear. Those threats will be utterly ineffective next year, because with the level of attention this is getting, EVERYONE by then will know there were no consequences for the many schools that had majority opt outs. The testing emperor has no clothes and this year's tests are a spotlight revealing that condition.... cts parent
The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.
This “opt-out” revolt has been quietly building for years, but it reached historic levels this time. More than half the pupils at several Long Island and upstate school districts joined in — at some schools in New York City boycott percentages neared 40%... Juan Gonzalez, Fed-up parents revolt against state's standardized tests.... Daily News
 let’s see if the NYT manages to ignore this hugely historic grassroots rebellion, as is their wont....

Fred Smith on Tisch after MSNBC debate with Ravitch (If you missed it go http://www.msnbc.com/all and click on "To test or not to test"   -- I wanted Ravitch to punch her in the face):
Ravitch post-debate comment: 
I am bummed out that Tisch got the first word and the last word. It is insulting to parents to say that opt out is a labor dispute. Parents don't opt out to help the union. They opt out because they want to protect their children from a test that is designed to fail them.
 I blame Chris Hayes, who as pretty much the entire press corps is awful on ed issues. Throwing the red herring of comparing opt out to anti vaccine people. OK - here's Fred:
I would have to agree with Tisch. She says the Common Cores Test are Diagnostic. That's true. The diagnosis is that she, SED and Pearson don't know what the hell they're doing. Opting out of the tests is the vaccination parents want in order to spare their children from this disease... My take is that she mixed up cause and effect. Perhaps she meant that parents were getting caught up in the union's political fight. She put this piece into play as she was urging parents not to opt out on Day 2.
A parent responds:
.....parents and teachers spearheaded this movement, and NYSUT is now finally following our lead. It's one thing to be pro-"reform" -- but honestly who can lie so baldly as to say this is a union-led political movement? Is that Tisch's stance?
Back to Fred:
It's a slam at the union. And I wonder if that would have been her dodge if Sheldon Silver was calling the shots. She seems a bit off balance as she figures out her position. No doubt having to sit next to Diane Ravitch and listen to a few facts must have rattled Her Pearlship....
Too bad Chris Hayes didn't give Diane the last word--as Tisch postured that the resistance is a matter of the union not wanting teacher evaluations. In the same breath, while she's reducing everything to "politics," she's also mouthing the party line that parents have been duped.
If you can't fire parents, why not try to deny their individual and collective intelligence and ignore the authenticity of their cause.

Penetrating East NY, District 19:
5 kids from my school opted out!!!  I had no idea. ... teacher in Dist. 19, one the most poverty stricken areas in East NY, Brooklyn (where I grew up.)
And from a MORE in Park Slope:
250+ opt outs at PS 321 this year. I'll get more exact numbers tomorrow, but that's around 37% of the kids in testing grades. Way to go, all! ... teacher
Thanks to Michael Elliot for coming to Jackson Heights to capture this morning's press conference.
As always, we are so very grateful for his tireless energy.  Norm, you have an awesome partner here!

Here they are in order
Opening Statement
Danny Katch
Michelle Kupper
Janine Sopp
Leonie Haimson
Daniel Dromm Answers a Question about consequences
Daniel Dromm Answers a Question about Cuomo Agenda
Daniel Dromm Answers a Question about Teachers and Curriculum
Daniel Dromm Answers a Question about High Stakes
Daniel Dromm Answers a Question about Common Core
Leonie Adds to the answer
Daniel Dromm Answers a Question about unions role

Other reports
Our school has 14, up from 5 last year, and I am hearing about more from D3. One more year, then I opt out my third grader.... parent
95% at BNS (298/314 opted out).  80% opted out at BCS- the 6th-12th grade sister school upstairs from BNS.
...so far one child has opted out at my school...a special needs child whose parent used a doctor's note to back up her opting the child out... teacher in district 14
....reporting from, district 3 school, MS421 we have 6 (including my son) students/parents who opted out in protest of standardized testing.
Still waiting to hear from a few other schools in the district I've requested numbers from.... parent
9 from PS 11. I'm a little disappointed, but that's a 120% growth from last year  :)
For D6 ps178(K to 4th) there were #3 students to opt-out.  All were sent to the cafeteria.
For D3 ps163 there were #6 students to opt-out and all were sent to the cafeteria.
Castle Bridge got to 100 percent
Hamilton Heights, D6.  They had 50 of 104 students opt out this year.  21 3rd graders, 24 4th graders, and 5 5th graders.
I don't have hard numbers yet either. I know of 8-9 at Muscota (the tireless work of Helena Rincon), 17 at Amistad, a dual language K-8 (!!! Hurray for Gretchen Mergenthaler!!!), at least 5 at PS/IS 187, and a few more scattered around D6. I have not heard from Castle Bridge, expected to have a huge percentage of opt outs, and Hamilton Heights, where close to 70% opted out last year.

I can also report at least 3 at Manhattan East middle school in D4. While our numbers are still small, they've got to be double what they were last year. And the "noise" as Meryl Tisch called it is becoming deafening. Perhaps she'll actually hear it some day. Not counting on that. Perhaps the people we vote for will actually hear it some day. Carl Heastie just sent an email touting the work he did around Cuomo's education proposals in the budget process. That it came out today says to me he gets how passionate this debate is becoming. Okay, so I might feel a little competitive with the suburbs, whose numbers so outstrip ours, but thank goodness for them!
Also, let's not discount those who did not end up opting out. Let's encourage them to write their legislators and Cuomo and tell them why they felt he's made them an offer they could not refuse. I definitely see a pattern where numbers climb at schools where teachers become outspoken against the tests. I know many parents don't want to "hurt" their kids' teachers or their schools. There are way more people who decry the test-based ed reforms but don't opt out... Parent

Fairport NY refusal numbers: 1820 refusals = 67.1% -- Superintendent Bill Cala
I'm not in NYC, but my kids' elementary school in New Rochelle had 65 this year...up from ONE last year!  I also heard that 25% of one of the middle schools opted out...about 250 kids (don't know last year's numbers) and promising numbers in some of the other elementary schools. That's huge!
Great news from Westchester County.

Here is an excellent analysis of what is behind the Opt Out movement. Last year, 50,000-60,000 students opted out in Néw York. The figure will be more than double that this year.
Parents are reacting against the overuse and misuse of tests. They are reacting against Governor Cuomo's harsh and punitive education legislation.
In a democratic society, parents can't be pushed around by public officials who are more interested in politics than in children. It makes parents angry.
My favorite quote:
“The most dangerous place on Earth is between a mother and her child. Cuomo has crossed the line,” declares GiGi Guiliano of East Islip, a mother of three who will refuse the test. “We want our classrooms back. We want our teachers to be able to teach again. I want my kids to enjoy the love of learning, not how to fill in bubbles. I want them to be lifelong learners.”

NY Daily News

Thousands of students opt out of state mandated English Language Arts exam as families from Brooklyn to Buffalo boycott tests

It's an anti-testing tsunami.
Thousands of families across the Empire State said no to standardized testing, boycotting the state-mandated English Language Arts exams which began Tuesday.
While accurate figures were hard to come by, testing opponents, parents groups, and school officials from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, to Buffalo all agreed the number is likely to far exceed the 60,000 students who refused to take the test last year.
“From what I’m hearing from other superintendents, it could be at least 300,000 students across the state that opted out,” said William Cala, superintendent of Fairport Central School District near Rochester.

Rachel Cohen, mother of a fifth-grader at Public School 261, said she thinks at least 66% of the 817 students in her Boerum Hill school refused to take the English Language Arts test — the first of the exams administered to third-through eighth-graders across New York State this week.
“Essentially I see no diagnostic educational benefit to my child,” she said. “I see no compelling evidence this is a fair and accurate way to assess children or teachers. All this emphasis on testing actually interferes with meaningful learning and assessment.”
Other parents whose kids opted-out echoed Cohen’s complaints that teachers are being forced to “teach to the test” to preserve their jobs — and their kids were being short-changed as a result.
“We’re not against assessment, we believe in meaningful assessment,” said Jody Alperin, whose children are in the second and fifth grade at PS 10 in South Park Slope, Brooklyn. “Test results should not be punitive.”
Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Education, said it will be several days before they know just how many public school students balked at taking the tests.

“We collect opt-out data (as we do every year) by tabulating what is bubbled on the students’ answer sheets during the test administration,” Kaye said. “For this reason, we do not have figures until after the test administration is completed, including makeup test dates.”
About 1.1 million students statewide were eligible to take the exams. The ELA exams run through Thursday and the math tests are next week.
Chris Cerrone, of United Opt Out, which has been leading the charge against the testing, agreed it will take some time before they get a true picture of how widespread the boycott was.
“The numbers are still coming in,” he said.
But reports of large numbers of students boycotting the tests were pouring in from public schools across the state.
Westchester County executive Rob Astorino, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate, refused to allow two of his kids to take the test. He estimated some 100,000 parents did the same statewide.

Further north in the Lower Hudson valley, school officials reported that a quarter of all students in third through eighth grade ditched the test.
Up in the Buffalo suburbs, the superintendent of West Seneca School District reported 2,074 out of 2,976 students — nearly 70% — refused to take the test.

“Last year, we had 30% who refused to take the test,” said Mark Crawford, whose district has five elementary schools and two middle schools. “So it was a surprise to me.”
In the nearby Lake Shore School District, Superintendent James Przepasniak said half of their 1,000-plus students opted out.
“I am not surprised,” he told The Buffalo News. “I believe that the parents groups, the teachers groups have been communicating to parents through many means and I think our parents are more aware of the options they have.”
Gov. Cuomo, a strong supporter of the standardized exams, declined to comment on the apparent anti-testing movement sweeping the state.
But parents like Michele Greeley, 44, of Staten Island, said the anti-testing sentiment is not widespread at her kids’ school — and the state needs some way to measure teacher and student performance.

“I had to take tests when I was in school,” said Greeley, who has kids in the fourth and fifth grades at PS 8 in Staten Island.
“I want to make sure they are learning. It didn’t even cross my mind to opt out. Every parent is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t really know anyone who opted out here.”
Critics, however, say the tests are a poor measure of academic achievement and rob students of valuable school time.

This year New York State United Teachers got behind the opt-out movement after the state Legislature passed a law backed strongly by Cuomo that made test scores the basis of tougher evaluation standards intended to kick poor performing teachers out of classrooms.
Widespread boycotts, pro-teacher groups believe, would undermine the credibility of teacher ratings.
There are no penalties for refusing the tests, but in the past relatively few parents chose to have their kids skip the exams.

In 2014, just 1,925 city students opted out of either one of the state reading or math tests given to students in grades three to eight.
That number represented less than 1% of all students tested that year, but it included only kids who attended school on the days of the exams and formally refused them.
With Glenn Blain
and Juan Gonzalez

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