Saturday, April 20, 2013
Big Breakthrough for "Test Refusers" in New York State
After one week of protests against state testing, the Opt Out movement in New York State can count many important victories. First of all, thousands of children in the state, from Long Island, to New York City, up the Hudson Valley, to Western New York and the Adirondacks, refused to take the ELA and Math tests put in front of them, sometimes doing so alone, sometimes as part of large groups in their school. They did so in spite of the State Education Department's insistence that such acts were illegal, and in spite of some awful examples of intimidation by school authorities. This showed that parents activism around high stakes testing could not be
discouraged by threats and in fact that such threats would backfire.
Secondly, the movement got considerable news coverage, first locally and then nationally, with stories appearing on cable outlets throughout the state, passionate discussions taking place in local newspapers, and finally stories appearing in the New York Times. Washington Post and on Yahoo.com. Now most parents in New York state, many in the Tri-State area, and quite a few in other parts of the country know there was a major Test Revolt in New York State. It puts an action once inconceivable within the realm of possibility.
Finally, for the first time that I know of since this movement started, Opting Out parents were able to secure representation from civil liberties lawyers in cases of harassment or intimidation of their children. Three different lawyers, including the most respected civil liberties lawyer in New York State, have stepped forward to help embattled Opt Out families. This is also something of national significance, as Opting Out parents in other parts of the nation have had little success in securing such assistance
When you look at all these developments, you have to conclude that a movement launched by a handful of parents, with no funding, and no support from elected officials, has inspired a public discussion of great power and significance about the dangers of standardized testing and has awakened parents in the state and the nation to the importance of their voice in determining what goes on in the schools they send their children to.