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Opt-Out Movement Struggles for Traction

• Mike Thomas


Those in the Opt-Out movement may be becoming more vocal and more adamant, but they are not picking up more supporters for their cause.

A comprehensive national survey on education issues, which is conducted annually by Education Next, shows a decided majority of Americans opposes the Opt-Out agenda.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents favored the federal requirement that all students be tested in math and reading in each grade from third through eighth and at least once in high school. The most support came from those identifying themselves as Democrats.

Other surveys have consistently shown strong support for testing in minority communities.

In a 2013 survey conducted by the Associated Press – NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 85 percent of Hispanic parents and 82 percent of black parents said it was very important or extremely important “to regularly assess whether or not children are meeting statewide expectations.”

In addition, the survey found that 85 percent of parents earning less than $50,000 a year said regular assessments of their children is very important or extremely important.

Now compare those results with findings from the National Survey on Opting Out of Standardized Tests conducted by the Teachers College at Columbia University: “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.’’

Aware of the optics, those in the Opt-Out movement have been trying to recruit more minorities to their cause.

In an April story in Politico, Luis Torres, director of policy and legislation for the League of United Latin American Citizens, rejected the invitation.

“We already have so much work to do to try to close the achievement gap that this is a distraction,” he said. “We need to know exactly how the kids are doing because when they go to college, if they are not prepared it’s going to cost people more money.”

Perhaps this reveals a difference in perspective. While the Opt-Out parents may take their high-performing schools and children’s post-secondary education for granted, those who for decades have been on the other side of the equation do not. And so they want to ensure their children also are being held to high standards and that they too will be prepared for college.

There may be disagreements about the amount of testing and the stakes attached to test results, and those issues are rightly being resolved in the states. But public surveys, such as this latest one from Education Next, have consistently demonstrated widespread support for testing as an objective measure of student success.

About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at