Wednesday, August 12, 2015

NY To Parents: Get Stuffed

The final "official" numbers are in for last year's New York opt out, and they are huge-- in the Empire State, one out of five students did not take the Big Standardized Test.

Faced with that kind of massive revolt, one might expect that the Head Honcho of Education in NY might select any of the following strategies;

1) Take a good, hard look at the test and ask why it is seems to have alienated so many parents and families.

2) Reach out to the Opt-Out community to ask why, exactly, they have such a problem with the BS Test.

3) Go back to the drawing board and ask if the BS Test is really measuring any of the things it's supposedly measuring

4) Make a commitment to use information gathered to improve, alter or otherwise make less odious the BS Testing.

One might expect that the Head Honcho would even choose all three of those options. But it turns out that one would be wrong, because instead state education commissioner MaryEllen Elia selected

5) Ignore the opt-out parents and make threats against the schools that their children attend.

Yep. In a conference call with reporters, Elia said that "the state Education Department is in conversations with the U.S. Department of Education working on a plan regarding possible sanctions for districts with high opt-out rates."

Those sanctions could range from a phone call to the superintendent along the lines of, "What the hell happened and how do you plan to fix it next year" to withholding Title I funds.

There are several messages here. One is that, all PR noise to the contrary, the feds are still fully prepared to tell states exactly how to run their education business, local control and complaints about federal overreach be damned.

But the other, larger message is aimed directly at parents. It's only two words long, and the second word is "you."

Exactly how far Elia expects school districts to go in strong-arming, coercing, and otherwise dragging recalcitrant parents to the shores of the BS Testing ocean are as yet unexplained. How badly does Elia expect schools to punish parents and students in order to avoid being punished by the state (which is itself trying to avoid being punished by the feds).

This is what New York has come to-- in an article about Common Core, testing, and opt-out, chancellor Merryl Tisch ends up with one of the more reasonable-sounding quotes: “I can't imagine that anyone has any interest in withholding Title I funds from school kids in New York State,” she said. “To me, it just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I understand carrot-and-stick, but I also understand inflaming an already tense situation.”

I suppose it could actually get worse, and by test time we may be treated to images of Elia holding a gun to the head of a cute puppy and announcing, "Parents, if too many of you opt out, I will kill your principal's pets." Or maybe she'll aim her appeal directly at the children by telling them, "Every time a child doesn't take the state test, an angel loses its wings and plunges straight to earth."

But until things get that ugly, we'll just have to settle for vague threats against schools, indicating that local districts will suffer if New York parents insist on exercising their legal rights.


  1. I hope this counterproductive edict backfires. Now that opting out is not hush hush and ignored, open defiance and rebellion may take hold. Parents may now defy the state in telling what to do with their children. Districts could save money on data analysis....with nothing to analyze (spin). The test is a steaming pile of bovine excrement that has no predictive or evaluative value given it's developmentally inappropriate design. Piaget may be dead, but he wasn't wrong.

  2. Peter,

    Here's post I left on the Ravitch blog, followed by a comment from someone else:


    In New York State districts with high numbers of parents opting out, Elia is going to try to be nice at first. When that doesn’t work—and it won’t, believe me—-she will then get tough, and shut off funding to those disobedient districts like a hand turning off a faucet. This, in turn, will trigger massive lay-offs, ballooning class size, and a general chaos and turmoil, both at the school sites and in the communities themselves.

    Elia then expects the parents in those districts to respond by crying “Uncle!”, shutting the-Hell up, and ceasing all opting out.

    Fat chance of that happening!

    However, Commish Elia better watch out, because in those middle and upper middle class districts she goes after this way, the highly-organized parents there will not accept this fear-based and outrageous extortion passively. (Meanwhile, the parents in working class or poor districts are not as energized, and will probably accept this without much of a fight.)

    At this point, all Hell will certainly break loose, and spark mass protests the likes of which New York state has never experienced in its history. Indeed, those protests will make the Pougkeepsie open forum debacle—where her predecessor John King got royally pummeled in fall 2013—look like a mosquito bite in comparison.

    To refresh everyone’s memory, here’s the video of that:

    With an eye towards the next election, Cuomo will then truly be between a rock and a hard place.

    and here's the COMMENT in reply.


    Pauline P.
    August 12, 2015 at 7:57 pm


    I just watch that parent forum video, and I wholeheartedly agree, Jack. Those parents are not going to be the type who will respond to Elia’s defunding their districts as punishment by capitulating and supplicating to Elia:

    “You win, Commissioner Elia!!! We give up!!! We’ll shut up and stop complaining!!! Our kids will be happy to take those tests!! We’re sorry for being so difficult earlier!!! Please forgive us and refund our district!!!”

    On the contrary, these folks are highly intelligent, have some money, lawyers—heck, some of them, like Ms. Leaderman’s husband, may even BE lawyers—and also connections. There’s no way those folks in the video, and others like them, will let such tyranny prevail.

    They’ll fight Elia to the death!

    Yowsa indeed!

  3. Elia is a looney toon. NYSED cancelled the Pearson contract for state testing, claiming it was a response to parent concerns, but she is going to sanction schools because parents refuse those same tests that NYSED already invalidated? (Questar exams will start in 2017).

    BTW there are already rumblings of another parent led action "Answer A All the Way", so.... Viva la Revolution!

    Also, the parents featured in the video above are still active and fighting, and the numbers are growing daily.