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MEDIA WATCH: Opt Out news begins to hit 'mainstream' of corporate media as New York opt outs reach at least 33,000 as testing season begins

Diane Ravitch notes: "Preliminary figures indicate that at least 33,000 students opted out of state tests in New York. This is a huge increase from last year, when only a few hundred students refused to take the tests."

One of the most interesting things about the 2014 Opt Out movement is that for the first time in the nearly 20 years since these forms of high-stakes testings began, critical articles and Op Eds are appearing regularly in the mainstream corporate media, and not just being noted accurately by long time opponents of the corporate "standards and accountability" version of reality. Many thanks are due to the administration of President Barack Obama, whose cunning attempt under "Race To The Top" to privatize most of the nation's real public schools by ruling them "failures" based on bogus testing programs have resulted in the pain of high stakes testing,

charterizations, and school closings extending to all the nation's public schools. For more than the first ten years of the "standards and accountability" movement, most white and affluent people in the USA were insulated from the nasty policies that had long resulted in closings and firings of schools' staffs in the inner cities.

"Given the growing criticism of the tests, which many teachers and principals say were "terrible" or developmentally inappropriate, the opt put movement will continue to grow," Ravitch continues in a post on her blog on the afternoon of April 8 2014.

One of the larger reasons that the Opt Out movement has been slowly achieving mainstream respectability is that Ravitch, the former assistant secretary of eduction, has become an apostate from the church of corporate school reform.

For more than 30 years, Ravitch has been a foremost historian of education. (More than a dozen of her books sit on the bookshelves behind me as I write this). But with the publications of her last two books (The Death and Life of the Great American School System and Reign of Error) Ravitch became a de facto leader of the movements, despite criticisms by some (including this reporter) that she had for too long been one of its most effective defenders. (The nation is still awaiting the possibility that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will try to debate Ravtich on the issues raised by Race To The Top and the other federal policies attacking that nation's real public schools, but those who are familiar with the shallow talking points versions of reality prattled by Duncan don't believe the main spokesmen and women for corporate reform will every dare appear against Ravitch in a forum where the world will be able to review the results on video for years to come. Last year, after a preliminary agreement, former D. C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee backed out of a debate with Ravtich).

"It is an awful burden to place on children to tell them--and, yes, they know-- that their test score will determine whether their teacher will be fired or their school will be closed," Ravitch went on in her April 8 blog entry. "As more states begin taking the Common Core-aligned tests, more parents will say no. We have heard from industry spokesmen that the online tests will be data mining, collecting information about children for future use, perhaps for vendors. Parents will say, "No thanks." And they are right."

As Ravitch might at times note, the reports on how children were being abused by high-stakes testing and the "turnaround" threat (where children's test scores result in the firing of all a school's staff) have been around for more years than began with the publication of The Death and Life of the Great American School System. For more than a decade, Substance has documented precisely these evils -- children telling Chicago Board of Education hearings on school closings that they would study hard so that their teachers didn't get fired. Although high stakes based on standardized tests began in Chicago during the reign of Paul Vallas as "Chief Executive Officer" of the nation's third largest school system, the use of test scores to rule that schools were "failing" and teachers and principals should be fired escalated during the years when Arne Duncan headed Chicago's schools.

AN APRIL 6 REPORT

33,000 New York Children Skip Standardized Tests

By Petr Svab, Epoch Times | April 6, 2014

Last Updated: April 7, 2014 7:16 am

EPOCH TIMES

NEW YORKLast week was quite different for Lila, 9, compared to most children her age in New York. She didnt take the English language arts test administered to more than a million students across the state

Her father, Danny Katch, plans to opt Lila out of the upcoming math test too. He disagrees with how test scores are used for important decisions about students, teachers, and schools.

Annual standardized tests are required at all public schools starting in third grade. With introduction of the Common Core, a set of standards aimed at improving college and career readiness, the tests became harder and drew criticism from parents.

The opt-out movement is nothing new. Last year, several hundred students opted out from standardized tests in New York City and several thousand in the state. But a question mark remained over the scope of the movement, since both the city and the state did not disclose the exact numbers.

This year more than 33,000 students opted out of the test, according to a survey released Sunday by the New York State Allies for Public Education, a group of parents and education advocates promoting opt outs.

The group acknowledged numbers were estimated for some districts and missing from others. The 33,000 figure is much higher than initial estimates. The headcount will probably rise as the missing pieces come in.

This is by no means a comprehensive, complete number for New York City. I know that for a fact, said Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, one of the advocacy organizations supporting the opt outs.

The survey only includes six New York City school districts with a total count of 365 students opting out. Change the Stakes, a group of parents and educators, has confirmed more than 900 students who opted out of the test in the city.

According to the state survey, most schools do not stand in the way of opt outs. Still, at 2 percent of schools, parents or students were pressured not to opt out. Another 20 percent did not allow students who opted out to participate in an alternative activity, such as reading. Children had to sit quietly and do nothing.

Some schools where a majority of students refused the tests have not been penalized.

The citys Schools Chancellor Carmen Faria instructed schools to respect parents decisions regarding opting out. She also said that schools should inform parents that children with no scores can have trouble applying to some schools. That may be very rare, because schools usually have alternative options for students transferring from private schools or from out of state, who also lack test scores.

Danny Katch had no problem opting out at P.S. 69. The school has supported our decision, he said.

The opt-out movement took a while to be recognized, but it may have hit the soft spot of the system. Last week state legislators decided standardized test scores wont be allowed as the primary factor in middle school admission or grade-promotion decisions. Test results also wont stay on middle school students permanent records.

Category: New York NY News



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