Tuesday, September 1, 2015

NY: It's Not the Law

Sometimes it's the small market newspapers that take risks and get out ahead of the pack. But sometimes they're just extra clueless, like the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, New York.

Here they are making noise about how the opt-out movement is doomed. Doomed!! Oh, they had a big run last year, but that was back when there were no consequences for their shenanigans. But this year things will be different. Oh, yes, baby. Different. Because the new sherif in town has laid down the law.

The THR quotes MaryEllen Elia's recent speech about how she's armed superintendents with special parent-intimidation tool kits so that supers can make it clear that it's the law. The editorial writer underlines that with punchy single-sentence paragraphs.

That’s worth repeating.

“It’s the law.”

Well, no. It's not worth repeating. It might be worth clarifying. As in, what, exactly is the law. Because while I have not examined the relevant laws of New York State in painful detail, I'm pretty sure that what the law says is that schools must give the test. There's no law that says that students must take the test.

That's worth repeating.

There's no law that says that students must take the test.

The THR scolds mightily. This time there will be no easy peasy lemon opt-out.

Elia knows better. As the THR was threatening doom and unspecified penalties for opt-out naughtiness, Elia was "clarifying" her position in the kind of political clarification that civilians think of as "taking back that dumb thing I said and trying to replace it with something less wrong."

Elia has suddenly discovered that parents do, in fact, have the right to opt out. It's even possible that they have a point about some of the test's deficiencies (they "have problems" and are "too long"). Also her threats were totally not threats. Don't be silly. But she is going to arm her superintendents with high-powered PR tool kits because she has not yet abandoned the last hope of the reformsters, which is that folks are hostile to Common Core Testing Stuff because they just don't understand how awesome it really is, and once we finally 'splain it to them the right way, they will be hollering, "Me!! Me!! Test my kids more, please!!"

Parents in New York have won the greatest victory of all-- recognition by the state that they get to decide, and that they must be convinced-- not coerced, not threatened, and not treated like the states' low-level flunkies. It may take a while for word to get to Middletown, but the state is figuring out that they can't simply order students to take the Big Standardized Test. And that's the law.

[Update: A commenter on Diane Ravitch's blog, where this post also ran, added her comments as a specialist in NY law. Follow the link for her full explanation, but the short form is that not only is the testing requirement not the law, but much of what the regents are requiring is in violation of the law.]

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