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Opt-Out:  Grassroots movement or teachers union initiative?

• ExcelinEd

There was a time when the move to higher academic standards and more rigorous assessments was embraced by most elements of the education community, including the teachers unions.

But now we are seeing the unions break ranks, actively working against that which they once supported as being in the best interest of children. They are spending vast sums to promote the so-called opt-out movement, claiming it is a large grassroots effort when in fact it is an organized political campaign that has attracted only a small minority of more affluent parents.

The reason for this turnabout is that the unions once hoped that they could leverage their support of the improved standards and assessments to roll back accountability, which has long been their true agenda. But that agenda must not prevail because minus accountability, the new standards and assessments will be a meaningless gesture. Accountability was a response to a system that allowed struggling students, many of them low-income minorities, to fail without consequence to those charged with their success. Those are the good old days to which the unions would return us.

The following excerpt from a US News & World Report column by Andrew J. Rotherham nicely explains the situation:

Let’s back up for a minute. To be clear, the opt-out movement is not some organic happening. National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García tried to claim it was during a discussion I moderated a few weeks ago at the Council of Chief State School Officers legislative conference. When I asked her about the millions of dollars some of her state affiliates are spending to encourage test boycotts she didn’t have a response. That’s not very grassroots. In New York the state teachers union is openly encouraging opt-outs and some PTAs are circulating warmed-over versions of union talking points. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten straddles the issue by saying she vigorously supports the right of parents to opt-out but isn’t urging it.

Meanwhile, parents are not boycotting all standardized tests. Parents in Brooklyn, New York, Montclair, New Jersey and other affluent opt-out hot spots are more than happy to opt their children in to the college gateway tests perpetuating privilege and status in this country. Boycotting the new Common Core tests is chic but at the same time millions of students are opting into the SAT and ACT tests while their affluent parents pony up big bucks for tutoring on these and other college gateway achievement tests like Advanced Placement. Education writer Chris Stewart has pointedly noted the cringe-worthy irony of a mostly white led effort to boycott state standardized tests that are arguably most important for low-income and minority students who are frequently denied a quality education in our nation’s public schools.

Unlike the SAT and other college tests the Common Core tests are linked to school accountability and teacher evaluations. The data are disaggregated to make sure some students, especially low-income and minority students, are not shortchanged. It’s probably just coincidental that these tests, which shine a harsh light on how well schools and school districts are doing, are the ones everyone is worked up about?

Of course it’s not, which explains why after hundreds of millions of public dollars have finally been invested in a new generation of better tests – assessments that educators, the teachers unions and basically the entire education community said it wanted – these tests suddenly aren’t good enough either.

To read the complete article, click here.


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