NYSED Declares Scores Not Comparable, Opt Out Grows Across State
This past Friday afternoon, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the results of the 2016 NYS Common Core 3-8 ELA and math results. Despite expensive ad campaigns from Gates-funded advocacy groups and the distribution of “Anti Opt-out” toolkits by Commissioner Elia aimed at persuading parents to opt in to state tests, the test non-participation rate increased from 20 percent last year to 22 percent.
As Chris Cerrone, a school board member and NYSAPE member from Western NY said, “Given Commissioner Elia’s public relation blitz across the state and all the interviews she did with the media, as well as all the money spent by the pro-Common Core groups, the increase in opt out numbers indicates that parents remain very concerned about the low quality of these tests and the direction of education in our state.”
An increase in test refusals were seen across the state, including in large urban districts like Buffalo and New York City. In only 5 percent of districts statewide –38 out of 686 — was the test participation rate at or above 95 percent for ELA and math. If the current proposed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regulations are adopted, this would mean that the state would have to punish the vast majority of schools by giving them low grades or imposing aggressive intervention plans. (see chart below)
“Despite the relentless and well-funded PR push back we received in the city, more and more parents are becoming educated on just how harmful standardized testing is for their children. The increase in opt-out is a significant win for immigrant families, students with special needs and students from low income households. Our grassroots approach is resonating with parents seeking true equity in public education,” said Johanna Garcia, NYC parent and Co-President of District 6 President’s Council.
“Overall, these exams not only demonize our students and teachers, but the entire city of Rochester. I will not allow my child to take an exam that does not accurately reflect her progress. I’m not against testing, but I am against tests with no educational value,” Eileen Graham, Rochester parent of 4th grader and founder of Black Student Leadership.
Long Island districts again this year opted out in large numbers, some as high as 84%. Many other districts also experienced over 50% of student refusing to take the tests. (see chart below)
Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent, the founder of Long Island Opt Out and a member of NYSAPE said, “The opt out movement continues to expand despite the aggressive campaign to thwart our efforts and marginalize our voices. Parents demand nothing short of a complete overhaul to our excessive testing system, a ban on the mining of sensitive personal data, replacement of flawed Common Core with research-based standards, and a permanent decoupling of evaluations from test scores.”
Despite their own warning that this year’s test scores could not be compared to last year’s because the tests were shorter and untimed, NYSED still claimed that increases in this year’s ELA scores over last year’s scores justified their continuing to implement the Common Core standards and Common Core aligned exams. These contradictory statements undermine NYSED’s credibility.
The reality is that without a more careful analysis of the tests themselves, their length, and the impact of giving them untimed, it is impossible to ascertain if achievement increased, decreased, or stayed the same as last year. In addition, the fact that so few schools and districts had a 95% participation rate also undermines their reliability.
“The fact that 95% of school districts in NYS did not meet the federal and state participation requirements significantly weakens the reliability and validity of test scores for accountability purposes. How can Commissioner Elia claim that these scores are valid or show any improvement in achievement,” asked, Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator, and Opt Out CNY founder.
“There is little doubt that parents will continue to exercise their right to refuse harmful state tests and right now it is imperative that Commissioner Elia and the Board of Regents advocate for a revision in the proposed ESSA regulations, or else face having to intervene in most of the schools in the state,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and BATs Executive Director
“Parents were very concerned when MaryEllen Elia was named Commissioner, due to her links to the Gates Foundation in Florida. Skepticism was withheld to give her the benefit of the doubt while changes were discussed. However, her continued failure to address the concerns of parents have only further eroded confidence in her leadership and in the State Department of Education,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.
In response to increases in test refusal, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia attacked critics and claimed that parents refusing the state tests were unaware of “important” changes made to the tests. Bianca Tanis, Ulster County Public School parent and educator said, “The small changes and tweaks made by the NYS Education Department are simply not enough. Nothing has changed for the individual child and to suggest otherwise is just plain wrong.”
Said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters: “Between 2003 and 2009, the NY State Education Department engaged in rampant test score inflation, by making the tests and the scoring easier, without admitting this. After that, the bubble burst and the scores fell radically with the introduction of Common Core-aligned exams, when our Commissioner was intent on proving to parents their children and their schools were failing. I fear that state officials are still manipulating the scores for political ends. It is no wonder that New York parents do not trust these exams to give an accurate picture of their children’s learning.”
“NYSED must work more consistently with teachers, parents, and students, to create policy that supports whole child initiatives in every community. It’s tiresome to continue to sell our children and families short by engaging annually in narrow discussions about learning that only focus on ELA and mathematics, while continuing to neglect science, the arts, and civic engagement,” said Jamaal Bowman, Bronx public school educator and parent.
“Why would anyone support tests designed for over 60 percent of students to fail? If a teacher gave a test in her classroom where over 60 percent failed she would rightly question the validity of her test. This is insanity,” said Tim Farley, Hudson Valley principal and public school parent.
It is clear that the over-emphasis and misuse of test scores with questionable validity and no educational purpose continue to rob our public schools of valuable instructional time and resources. Until the leaders of public education in NYS begin to focus on closing the opportunity gap by addressing the inequitable resources in our schools and heed the demands of parents and educators for evidence-based and child-centered educational policies, the opt out movement will continue to grow.
|2016 Test Refusal Analysis – Public School Districts|
|# of districts – less than 95% participation||648|
|% less than 95% participation||94%|
|# of districts – 95% or more participation||38|
|% 95% or more participation||6%|
|# of districts – less than 95% participation||655|
|% less than 95% participation||95%|
|# of districts – 95% or more participation||31|
|% 95% or more participation||5%|
|Test Refusal increase from ELA to Math||2016|
|# of districts||582|
|% of districts||85%|
|Test Refusals by Percent Thresholds||% of Districts*|
|20% and over test refusals||72%|
|30% and over test refusals||48%|
|40% and over test refusals||30%|
|50% and over test refusals||19%|
|*Based on NYSED math test refusal figures|
|# of public school districts (includes big five): 686|
NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.