Opting Out of Standardized Testing Now Has a Name and a Face.

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Opt-Out Isn’t Black and/or Brown

I’ve provided insight on the data found in a recent Columbia University survey on the National Opt-Out Movement.

The goal of analyzing this report is as follows:

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Income levels effect opt out choice

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.



Do “Rock Star” School Teachers Really Need a Teachers’ Union?

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Do Great Teachers Really Need a Teachers’ Unions?

The untimely death of Chief Justice Antonin Scalia may have bought teachers’ unions some time, but at some point the teachers’ unions will have to take a closer look at how they conduct their business in order to maintain relevancy amongst its constituents.

Re: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association:  NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry issued a joint statement condemning the court’s consideration of the case.  “We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America — that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life,” they said.  Is it too much to ask that not only do you have to play by the rules, but that you also have to show/prove consistent student gains in order to continue benefiting from this middle-class lifestyle (we as taxpayers) have afforded you?

I am speaking solely from the first six years of my teaching career, and from the experiences that I’ve had with one of the most powerful teachers’ unions in the US, The Baltimore Teachers Union, affectionately referred to as the BTU.

As a former building representative in the BTU, I can honestly say I didn’t know or fully understand how the union worked until I was able to get hands on, practical experience with dealing with union issues.  As a building representative, I was amazed at the things that I would see and hear.

I grew weary of the building representative position very fast. It seemed as if I was constantly talking and referring the same group of misfit teachers to union attorneys. These weren’t teachers that were “rock stars”, putting students first, and going above and beyond for students. These were the teachers that hated their jobs, hated kids, and had too much time on the job to start another career, so they were willing to bide their time, and ride the system out until retirement.

BCPSS knew that these underperforming teachers were a detriment to the system and to the profession, which is why there was a substantial push to pay teachers to retire.  I became overly frustrated with the system.  I thought education was meant to put students first but sadly I was mistaken.  I left to work in a different type of public school, a public charter school.  This is not to say that charter schools don’t have their own set of problems, they do.

In my experiences, charter schools do a better job with making students the focal point.  Charter schools also give parents, especially (Black and Latino parents) school choice.  A no cost alternative to the traditional public school system.  A choice that would not be afforded to most if it were not free.

Teachers that work in schools with kids that are historically disenfranchised should not be paid the same as teachers who do not.  Teachers that take on the largest challenges, and have success while doing so are the teachers that deserve to top the teacher pay scales.  I’m not taking anything away from teachers in suburban school districts, however working with the neediest students in poor, disenfranchised schools (usually students of color) has become the hardest schools to staff.

The key word for me these days is accountability.  Of course accountability looks different depending on your lens, but it’s importance is still relevant.  There needs to be a uniform way to hold teachers accountable for student achievement. If nationally, normed standardized testing is what’s agreed upon, and then let’s do it.

As a professional, do you think you should be held accountable for the teaching, learning and progress of your students?

In closing, I circle back to my initial question, do great teachers really need unions?

For the most part, I think we’ll have some folks that say yes, and we’ll have some folks that will say no.  But for the kids that I’m responsible for, I want teachers that aren’t watching the clock, teachers that know children raised in poverty need more, and are willing to give these students what they deserve.

What say you?

Who do you want teaching your kids?

*This is only meant to be a conversation piece.

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