Sunday, August 16, 2015

Anti-Opt-Out Pushback

With the news that last year's Giant Wall of Big Standardized Testing in New York was shot full of holes thanks to a huge number of opt-outs, the anti-opt-folks started throwing a sackful of old baloney at the wall hoping that something would stick well enough plug a hole or two.

The New York Times led the charge, but America's newspaper of record apparently just dipped back into that record to dig out every worn out old defense of the BS Tests they could locate.

This ill-conceived boycott could damage educational reform — desperately needed in poor and rural communities — and undermine the Common Core standards adopted by New York and many other states. The standards offer the best hope for holding school districts accountable for educating all students, regardless of race or income.

This is kind of hilarious. Undermine the Common Core? Heavens to murgatroyd! Of all the nouns in this paragraph to which the modifier "ill-conceived" could be attached, "boycott" seems to least deserve it. And if the NYT is concerned about holding people accountable for educating all students, they might talk about how the state has boycotted fairly funding small city schools, finally driving those cities to file a lawsuit that the state has paid big bucks to fight.

The editorial goes on to toss other stale baloney at the wall-- parents won't know how their kids are doing in school (because, I guess, parents are dopes), the school won't be fully represented to its state overlords, excessive testing is the fault of local tests, and the feds might penalize districts financially (though, again, the state's unwillingness to fairly fund districts is not an issue). Perhaps the editorial board ran out of room before they could add, "And this could go on your permanent record."

But when all is said and done, the NYT is a bunch of ed reform amateurs. What are the reformsters floating as anti-opt-out talking points?

For that we can turn to the Collaboration for Student Success,  a group affiliated with all the usual subjects and deeply committed to the reformster agenda. And they have a nice webpage up asking whether you would opt your child out or not. Say "opt in" (which is actually an interesting idea-- what if states only administered the BS Tests to students who actively signed up for them, like the SAT or ACT) and the site delivers an attaboy. But opt out--

Choose opt out, and you're taken to this page. There's a video from a perky teacher of the year who tells us that these new tests have gone beyond bubble tests blah blah critical thinking blah problem solving. Has she actually seen the test?

CSS lists four talking points about what an opted-out family is doing:

* "Surrendering the opportunity to have an objective snapshot" of how the child is doing. So the test is just a snapshot? Not anything deeper or more useful? "Objective" snapshot. No.

* "Denying their student’s teachers, this year and next, the opportunity to measure what skills and subjects their child is adept at, and to discover where he or she needs extra help." If the student's teacher does not already know how to do this without the benefit of a BS Test, the student's teacher should not be anybody's teacher.

* The state will have an incomplete picture of the school's achievement, and that might affect what the school gets when it comes time for budgeting support, they say. Because test results are part of the funding formula. Also, remember that time a school's test results showed it was underfunded and undersupported, so the state rushed to its aid with additional funding and support? No, of course you don't, for the same reason I don't remember the time Angelina Jolie showed up at my front door begging to take her in when she left Brad Pitt for me.

* "Jeopardizing their school from receiving crucial federal funds to support your child’s school..." Yes, this page is a little confused about pronouns and general word use. But remember-- you don't want to lose those Title I funds that so far the feds haven't withheld from anyone, ever (and which are not awarded based on test results.)

CSS wraps up with the civil rights pitch, noting that letter supporting testing sent by twelve national civil rights groups. They neglected to mention the letter opposing testing signed by considerably more than twelve civil rights leaders. 

If this is the best set of arguments the pro-testing folks can muster, that would explain why New York commissioner of education MaryEllen Elia skipped straight over reasoning and winning hearts and minds and went straight to threats. If this is the best the pro-test folks can do, the BS Tests are in big trouble.


  1. Haha! "Heavens to murgatroyd!" I've never seen that written, had forgotten it existed, and can't remember what cartoon(?) it's from. But entertaining, like the whole post.

    1. Snagglepuss!

    2. Thanks! I don't remember ever knowing his name, but now I remember seeing him on Quick Draw McGraw. Wonderful voice. : )

  2. Peter, I followed that "Collaboration for Student Success" link to the YouTube video of the perky "Teacher of the Year" making her pro-Common Core, anti-opt-out pitch. Here it is:

    I noticed that while the perky Sarah Brown Wessling was indeed the "2010 Teacher of the Year", she was, to be more precise, "The Teaching Channel's 2010 Teacher of the Year."

    What's the "Teacher Channel"?

    Here's it's "Board of Directors

    No teachers. Just some veterans of the TV industry and foundations like the Getty Trust.

    The Frequently Asked Questions page is most instructive:

    "How is Teaching Channel funded?

    "Teaching Channel has received seed funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation."

    "How do I know the video I'm watching is aligned with the new Common Core State Standards?

    "Videos labeled 'Lesson Idea Common Core' are Common Core aligned. If you click on a Common Core video, under the title and description, you can see the standards aligned with that lesson. Simply 'mouse over' the standard abbreviation and a window will open with information about the standard. If you have questions or suggestions about the alignment of a particular lesson, please email us at"

    Nothing against Ms. (Mrs.) Wessling. She seems sincere, but given this information, she's not exactly the most objective person to be providing unbiased information on the Common Core. Is anyone paying her? "The Teaching Channel"? "The Gates' Foundation"?

    Unpaid or not, The Teaching Channel gives Ms.(Mrs.) Wessling her own page, and the current top post has her giving instructions on "figuring out how to get the Core into six buckets."