News You Can Use:

New York City Catholic Schools Superintendent on Why Her Students Are Opting In / The Seventy-Four Million
Kathleen Porter-Magee, superintendent for Partnership Schools, a network of six urban Catholic schools in New York City, says her students “voluntarily participate in the New York Common Core assessment.” “Catholic schools have long been unapologetic supporters of high standards for all children, and we at the Partnership use results from the New York tests to benchmark our progress and our students’ academic growth, and to ensure we are keeping expectations high for our students…We believe that pushback is misguided and that the opt out movement is misleading parents.” Like Porter-Magee, Karen Nussle explains that good tests are in the best interests of students and families. “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college or a career…For parents and educators, that should come as a welcome change.”

Dear Mr. Buffett: I’ve Decided that I Should Opt Out, Too / Buffalo News
In a set of satirical letters, Rod Watson, columnist for the Buffalo News, writes he is opting out of his job responsibilities, similar to opt-out efforts in New York schools.  A mock response from Warren Buffett says Berkshire Hathaway will get “abandon management-generated metrics” and instead “have workers design assessments they think best illustrate their uncaptured genius.” The fictional exchange highlights that the opt-out movement ignores the real-world responsibilities students will face after high school. A New York Post editorial says the opt-out movement “is just more of the same. The same parents who will do anything to see their kids succeed don’t want to risk the fact that they might fail.”

U.S. Senate Candidate David Jolly Wrongly Says Common Core Required for Obama Grants / Miami Herald
A PolitiFact check gives a “Mostly False” rating to U.S. Congressman David Jolly’s claim that Race to the Top required “participating states to adopt the Common Core” in order to receive federal funding. Having college- and career-ready standards accounted for less than 10 percent of states’ applications for Race to the Top funding. “Committing to Common Core was not a stipulation of winning a grant,” the analysis notes. “There was no concrete requirement to adopt standards in exchange for grant money.” In 2014 Karen Nussle noted nearly half of states adopted and continue to implement Common Core State Standards despite having never been awarded Race to the Top funds. Since then, after Race to the Top has largely been dismantled, most states continue to refine, build on and implement the Common Core and high-quality assessments.


Correcting the Record:

For Common Core Test Opt Outs, It’s Next Year that Counts
Westchester Journal News
New York parents are opting out of statewide student assessments because they are skeptical of “future reform by the very ‘reformers’ who mucked up the rapid-paced adoption of Common Core-aligned high-stakes testing,” the editorial board claims. “[Parents] want to see real change, and until they do, some will have their kids sit out the test…State leaders should accept this transitional year as a wash.” The editorial ignores the significant changes New York officials already implemented, including shortening the tests, giving students more time to complete them and putting a moratorium on using the results for students or teachers. Here is where the piece gets it wrong:

Despite Significant Changes to State Tests, Opt-Out Activists in New York Refuse to Take ‘Yes’ as an Answer

New York parents continue to opt-out their children from statewide assessments because they are unsatisfied with “reform by the very ‘reformers’ who mucked up the rapid-paced adoption of Common Core-aligned high-stakes testing,” the Westchester Journal editorial board claims. “[Parents] want to see real change, and until they do, some will have their kids sit out the test…State leaders should accept this transitional year as a wash.”

But activists’ continued opposition to high-quality assessments—which officials made significant changes to, including shortening the tests, giving students more time and putting a moratorium on using the results in teacher evaluations—suggests they will not stop until any measure of accountability is removed from the exams.

The New York Post editorial board wrote this month, “The opt-out crowd won’t quit until all tests are meaningless…The state’s plainly headed toward testing that won’t expose kids’ academic problems.” That does a disservice to families and teachers. “Yearly assessments are vital in measuring learning. They provide critical feedback about students, teachers and schools.”

Across New York a growing chorus of voices have been countering opt-out activists’ message, encouraging students to “opt-in.” “Take the damn tests,” the New York Daily News put it bluntly. “New York has done everything imaginable to ease the supposedly unmanageable stress piled on Janies and Johnnies throughout the state. Everything imaginable, short of running all exams through the shredder.”

Civil Rights advocates, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, have called for students to participate in state tests. Test results “show the gap between education in some areas and others,” Sharpton said. “We need to be able to measure that and we need to be real clear about the educational inequality.”

Others point out that high-quality tests finally reflect the skills students need to be able to compete at high levels of learning and to succeed after high school. “States have adopted higher standards, states have tests that measure those standards and they’re comparable, so there can be an honest baseline…That is a fantastic success for each state and for America and its children,” said Louisiana state superintendent John White last fall.

Earlier this year Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, put it simply: “When we are finally going in the right direction, why would we even consider going back?”


On Our Reading List:

Errors, Opt-Outs Again Cast Shadow over State Exams
Politico New York
High opt-out numbers and errors on state English language arts exams has some New York officials questioning whether this year’s test results “will yield a result that’s any more useful than last year,” the article reports. “The whole thing has become a mess,” says Bob Lowry, deputy director of the New York Council of School Superintendents. More than 89,000 students in Long Island’s 108 school districts refused tests, Newsday reports. Politico New York notes participation rates have varied across the state from last year, with some districts seeing an increase in opt-outs and others experiencing a decrease.