Refuse the New York State standardized tests grades 3-8

Commissioner Elia affirms parents’ right to REFUSE state testing

Just in case anyone missed it last week, Commissioner Elia has ‘clarified’ that parents do indeed have the right to REFUSE the state standardized tests for their children.

Commissioner Elia says parents “absolutely” have the right to opt their kids out of state standardized tests, but she says she still wants to talk to them to try to bring them back to the fold.

“We haven’t done enough communication,” Elia said. “But if parents understand it and they still want their child to opt out, that certainly is their right.”

She admits the tests “have problems” and are “too long.”

“Elia clarifies position on opting out” WAMC August 31, 2015

The clarification was necessary due to the fact that many people (parents, assemblymen and even newspapers – keep reading) perceived her comments that “Its’s the law.” and discussion of talking to SED lawyers as threats to those who might consider refusing the tests in the future.

Commissioner Elia insists that her comments were misinterpreted as a threat but I do believe that this editorial from the Middletown Times Herald Record actually gets the ‘threat’ exactly right.  Unfortunately for the Times Herald Record editorial staff (who sounds incredibly excited and eager for parents who ‘opt-out’ to be punished), they missed the fact that the Commissioner shifted course right before they published their editorial.

Peter Greene who blogs at Curmudgucation brought the Middletown editorial to light (at least for me) and accurately points out the flaws in the editorial argument with the basic one being “It is NOT the law”.

Here they are making noise about how the opt-out movement is doomed. Doomed!! Oh, they had a big run last year, but that was back when there were no consequences for their shenanigans. But this year things will be different. Oh, yes, baby. Different. Because the new sherif in town has laid down the law.

The THR quotes MaryEllen Elia’s recent speech about how she’s armed superintendents with special parent-intimidation tool kits so that supers can make it clear that it’s the law. The editorial writer underlines that with punchy single-sentence paragraphs.

That’s worth repeating.

“It’s the law.”

 Well, no. It’s not worth repeating. It might be worth clarifying. As in, what, exactly is the law. Because while I have not examined the relevant laws of New York State in painful detail, I’m pretty sure that what the law says is that schools must give the test. There’s no law that says that students must take the test.

Mr. Greene, who lives in Pennsylvania, might not have examined the relevant New York laws in detail but parents in New York did and it seems Commissioner Elia has finally done so as well.

Elia knows better. As the THR was threatening doom and unspecified penalties for opt-out naughtiness, Elia was “clarifying” her position in the kind of political clarification that civilians think of as “taking back that dumb thing I said and trying to replace it with something less wrong.”

Elia has suddenly discovered that parents do, in fact, have the right to opt out. It’s even possible that they have a point about some of the test’s deficiencies (they “have problems” and are “too long”). Also her threats were totally not threats. Don’t be silly. But she is going to arm her superintendents with high-powered PR tool kits because she has not yet abandoned the last hope of the reformsters, which is that folks are hostile to Common Core Testing Stuff because they just don’t understand how awesome it really is, and once we finally ‘splain it to them the right way, they will be hollering, “Me!! Me!! Test my kids more, please!!”

Parents in New York have won the greatest victory of all– recognition by the state that they get to decide, and that they must be convinced– not coerced, not threatened, and not treated like the states’ low-level flunkies. It may take a while for word to get to Middletown, but the state is figuring out that they can’t simply order students to take the Big Standardized Test. And that’s the law.

I don’t think parents need more explanation about how awesome the New York State Common Core tests are.  They need a commissioner who will LISTEN to what is broken with education in New York State and will start working right now to FIX it!