Would I Opt Out My Own Child? No.

I have a wonderful friend with whom I get to talk about education on a regular basis. She texted me to ask if I think she should opt her child out of the NYS testing. I didn’t answer her as a school superintendent, or a NYS public educator, or a former NYSUT Committee of 100 member, or a writer. I could answer her as a friend, who cares about her children and wants what’s best for them. As a school superintendent, I’ve written about this subject before here and here and here in previous years. Here’s my response to her question:

No. Don’t opt your kids out of NYS testing. Do we want to teach our children that they don’t have to sometimes do things that are hard? Or that if we don’t like something the school or our boss or our parents decide, we can just say, “no thanks, I’ll pass”?

Instead of opting out–which I believe is much more about teacher evaluation tied to test scores than it is about the effects of testing on our children–talk to your kids about the purpose of the tests within our school system. Say, “this is a way for you to show what you’ve been learning all year. It’s a way for your teachers to measure what they’ve taught. If a lot of the kids in your class miss the same questions, the teachers know they need to do a better job with that material next year. The tests are a way for the school to know how they’re doing so they can keep improving.”

I would also go on to talk to my child and say, “testing isn’t something to stress out about. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You’ll not do as well as you want? There’s no terrible consequence. Just do what you always do, go in and give it your best shot. Take your time and read the questions carefully.”

Yes the APPR changes for next year are a disaster and I disagree with the governor’s education reform on several key points, including making student test scores such a significant portion of our teachers’ evaluations. So let’s make noise about that, let’s advocate for a fair and accurate measure of evaluating teachers, which I do believe includes some measure of student performance. Let’s work together–teachers and school leaders to develop plans that work. We don’t even have the guidelines from NYSED yet. The APPR plans we have in place right now don’t use test results to a ridiculous proportion–our teachers have done well under our current plans. Why opt out next week if what you’re really upset about are the changes for 2015-16 that we don’t have details on yet?


  1. As an ELA teacher who works in curriculum, I struggle with opinions that are “black and white.” It seems once a person has the idea to opt out, there is no amount of convincing that can alter that belief. We have had honest and open conversations with parents who were on the fence about opting their students out of the state assessments. Bonnie makes some strong points in her post, but there is always another point of view. I agree that we used to get better data than we do now, but I do not agree that the current data is unreliable or doesn’t allow teachers to see what areas in which they may need to tweak their instruction. We spent a great deal of time this summer with grade level teams analyzing this data and I know that it wasn’t a waste of time! I am not saying that the 3-8 testing is perfect…IT’S NOT! However, it never has been. In the last couple of years, I have seen improvement in the scoring guides that have made them more realistic and fair. Years ago, I remember giving students higher scores who copied huge sections from a passage while students that made inferences or showed higher level thinking skills were penalized for failing to include the correct buzzwords or phrases. Again, I will never say that there is no room for improvement when it comes to state assessments. I do feel, however, the opt out movement is gaining momentum due to the fact that these assessments factor in to teacher evaluations (which I do not necessarily agree with). I do not see items in these assessments that our students are ill-prepared for or that are “remarkably” different from previous years’ assessments. As a teacher, I do not want my students to opt out…I want them to do their very best and show everyone how hard we are working in our district to prepare them for life above and beyond the state assessments!

  2. Thank you Kim for once again putting into words exactly how I feel. I have two girls who will be taking the NYS Assessments next week to help us see what an amazing job their teachers have done. I’m so sad that the assessments are turning into a hammer instead of a road map for our teachers.

  3. Your point of view is respected. If the tests were a valid and true measure of developmentally appropriate grade level learning and if results came back that did give good reliable data about what we need to do a better job of teaching and what we are doing well, then I’d agree with you. If reading levels were appropriate and questions well written, then I’d agree with you. If scoring guides were realistic and fair, then I’d agree with you. But we do not get back anything that’s helpful, nor do parents. I’m not against testing because it’s sometimes hard. Not at all. I’m against unreliable, waste of time testing that offers nothing. Tie a score to my evaluation that is from fair developmentally appropriate tests with clear data in return. Refusing is the option that can make an impact right now. This is much bigger than just being unhappy about something. We all accept many things everyday of our lives that we just don’t like. Not everything is a protest. Some things are important enough to become that though.

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