Opt-Out Isn’t Black and/or Brown
The goal of analyzing this report is as follows:
- To discuss quite frankly how the opt-out movement has a color to it, and the color isn’t black or brown, it’s white.
- The significance of the Opt-Out Movement. Why is this movement so important to everyone, including Black and Latino families? It’s a movement centered around the traditional public school system, and their need to protect middle class jobs by ensuring teachers have little to no accountability for the learning of students, especially poor, minority students who have been inherently disenfranchised.
- Lastly, this opt-out movement has little to no effect on people with the financial means to provide supplemental education to their children. The leaders of this movement can afford tutors, such as learning centers, SAT/ACT prep classes, etc. All to leave minority students holding the bag, taking remedial classes for the first couple years of their college careers.
It should be noted “the vast majority of the participants in the opt-out National survey (92.9 percent) indicated that their children attended public schools” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016). The majority of these children are not from charter schools. The reason being, is because the sole viability of the worthiness of a charter school, (at least in NY state) is a point by point comparison of how the charter school performs in comparison to the district school. In most cases, if a charter school does not consistently outperform the district in which it is located, the question becomes why is there a need, when the district performs at the same rate or better?
Additionally, “nine out of ten (92.1 percent) respondents who are parents or guardians of school‐aged children said they are likely to opt out in the future” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016). NY State responded accordingly to the feedback it sought out to change the tests for those that exhibited concerns. Initial concerns were, test were punitive to teachers because they were tied to evaluations, the tests were poorly written, and the tests should be untimed. All feedback lawmakers took into account and changed. So, if many of the changes they requested were made, and they’re still opting out of testing at higher than 90%, what is this really about?
The study notes that “the typical opt out activist is a highly educated, white, married, politically liberal parent whose children attend public school and whose household median income is well above the national average” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016). According to the research, we have highly educated white people, making decisions that could ultimately effect students of color, without any of the parents of the students of color even being able to voice their outrage. So, if you look at the statistics, how is this different from the 1% wealth argument? It really isn’t. The people with the money are now driving Ed policy for the poor. And they’ve went so far as to say, not only do we drive policy, but we don’t want charter schools, blacks and Latinos should not have choice in where they send their kids. They should send them to the schools where they have traditionally gone. The schools that for decades have failed these students. This kind of thinking is the thinking that perpetuates generational poverty. The “haves” continue to have, while the “have nots” continue to not have.
Consequently, “they also are protesting the narrowing of the curriculum, corporatization/privatization of education, and the implementation of the Common Core State Standards” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016). For those that oppose common core, is the thought process on its opposition the fear of raising standards? Every profession does quality review, in hopes of having continual improvement. There’s a high percentage of students that get to college unprepared, and are relegated to taking remedial classes their first year of college. Usually by the end of year one, you have anywhere between 24-42 credits. So, by the end of year one, if you’ve only received between 6-12 credits, you’ve lost a year of education, and a year of funding. Thus leading to many minority students never finishing college, because it circles back to money, which many first generation college students of color just don’t have.
Moreover, “teachers (45.0 percent) say that they are opposed to tying teacher evaluation to student performance on standardized tests while non‐teachers were more likely to mention opposition to ‘teaching to the test’ and to the Common Core” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016). There are of course many different ways to analyze teacher effectiveness. One such way is student performance on summative assessments. Who wouldn’t want to know how much their students have grown? I’ll tell you who, those people that don’t believe in kids. Research supports that it’s harder to move black and Latino subgroups. Black and Latino parents aren’t the parents in opposition of these policies. Is/will education ever be about the needs of “all students”? Or will we continue to use words like all, when we know good and damn well we mean the select few with money and resources.
Lastly, “opt out activists’ view increasing school funds as an important idea for improving schools” (Pizmony‐Levy, Saraisky, 2016). The irony with this assertion is that in the epicenter of the opt-out movement, Long Island, NY, schools receive per pupil funding, but are also able to raise additional capital for school budgets by raising the real estate cap. Charter schools on the Island receive about 90% of per pupil funding, with no ability to raise additional capital to compete with the finances raised by tradition school districts. There is little to no collaboration between districts and charters on the Island, with some districts being quite adversarial to their charter neighbors. All of this to say, every charter school on Long Island outperforms its district, and they do it with less funding. So this isn’t necessarily an issue about money, but I can totally see how those that have money in abundance would like to invest in their children.
Pizmony‐Levy, O. and Green Saraisky, N. (2016). Who opts out and why? Results from a national survey on opting out of standardized tests. Research Report. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.
Most people “flat out” feel uncomfortable when conversing about race in sports, politics, education, media, law enforcement, etc. In just about every facet of our lives, there are elements of race and social injustice that exist in our country.
To turn a blind eye to it, or to think that it is simply going to go away is insulting to those that have faced and continue to face racism in this country. Race issues exist, and permeate throughout American society, and they will continue to do so, until we come from behind the proverbial “steel curtain” (awesome foreshadow), and have candid conversations about the importance of racial diversity Educational Leadership.
The Rooney Rule requires that an NFL team with a head-coaching vacancy must interview one or more minority candidates for the position; given the NFL’s woeful history of considering and hiring minority candidates to fill head-coaching slots until the implementation of the Rooney Rule, the question can be reasonably asked as to whether Pittsburgh would have even considered Mike Tomlin as a candidate for the Steeler head job without the Rooney Rule (Proxmire, 2008).
Moreover, what about a Rooney Rule in public education? I mean– real, organic, purposeful conversations centered on school leadership in areas that serve high poverty families of color. Urban school districts would benefit greatly from having more minority male candidates as teachers, leaders, superintendents etc.
Recently, NYC has acknowledged the need for more African-American, Asian, and Latino male teachers, and they have pulled out the think tank in order to make this a reality. http://www1.nyc.gov/site/ymi/teach/nyc-men-teach.page.
What are all of the other school districts in the country waiting for? This is a common sense move.
Diversifying the field of teaching will take a high level of commitment from Districts. NYCDOE should be commended for taking the initiative to create and promote high levels of diversity in its teachers. The success of this venture will be measured on NYC’s ability to retain these male teachers. I’d certainly be interested in interviewing a group of these teachers after several years on the job, to assess the levels of additional support offered to them by NYC.
I hope that they will make the same commitment to recruiting, retaining, and supporting school leaders of color as well.
What if for every principal and school superintendent vacancy, urban school districts had to (in good faith) interview a qualified minority candidate? The action alone would mean the world to minority families that have lost faith in the system.
The Rooney Rule casts a spotlight on several critical workplace diversity issues, including the importance of having managerial leadership reflect the diversity of a workforce, strategies for ensuring that the best people for the job are considered, and tools for combating unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions (Proxmire, 2008).
If we can do this in a sport, why can’t we do this in education? Why can’t a school’s staff mimic the population of its students?
Works Cited: Proxmire, D. (2008). Coaching diversity: The rooney rule, its application and ideas for expansion. American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, 1-9.