Cue the Eyeroll: Hey First-World Parents, Fighting Tests is Not Like Fighting Slavery

Here’s today’s little opt-out gem in the New York Times.

At Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, part of District 15, more than a third of the eligible students did not sit for the tests last year, and the principal, Elizabeth Phillips, has in the past been outspoken in opposing them. At a PTA meeting there last week, Ms. Phillips was studiedly neutral, but several teachers criticized the tests, with one comparing the stand against them to abolitionism and the fight for same-sex marriage.

Okay, folks: reality check. Is refusing standardized tests equivalent to fighting for freedom from slavery or demanding marriage equality?

That’s what several teachers at Public School 321 in Park Slope would have you believe, according to the NYT article. These educators might want to review their historical facts and ratchet up their critical thinking skills, per Common Core. Or, more concretely, take a stroll beyond bucolic Park Slope where brownstones rent for $10,000 a month and the average sale price on a house is $826,250.

Talk about first world problems. In New York State, tests aligned with the college-and-career-ready standards are no longer linked to teacher evaluations because 1) Gov. Cuomo shriveled up and started kowtowing to  the teachers’ union and 2) suburban parents resent proof that their children aren’t as brilliant as they once thought.

The new Regents Chancellor, Betty Rosa, whose ascendency was heavily lobbied for by NYSUT and NYS Allies for Public Education (a suburban parents group opposed to accountability), is urging parents to opt-out their kids. And they’re listening in Park Slope, although not in Harlem or the Bronx. Every kid in NYC’s poorest neighborhoods took the tests last year because their parents understand the importance of accurately gauging student growth and know the difference between righteous fights for freedom and snobbish donnybrooks against common-sense metrics.

P.S. 321, by the way, is an almost exclusively white upper-class school (only 9% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch; 8% are African-American) where students traditionally score high on standardized tests. The principal there, Elizabeth Phillips, supported a teacher protest rally last year against both the Common Core and attendant assessments.The Times article notes that,

The state’s position appears to be in flux. The previous Regents chancellor, Merryl H. Tisch, was a strong proponent of the tests. Last year, while Dr. Tisch was still in office, the education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, who reports to the Regents, said that it was “unethical” for educators to encourage or support test refusal and that it was districts’ responsibility to make sure that as many students as possible took the exams this spring. But the election of Dr. Rosa, who was endorsed by leaders of the opt-out movement, has muddied the issue.

It’s not so muddy for parents who rely on accurate measures of student growth and can’t afford the rent in Park Slope, which comes packaged with access to P.S. 321. According to a parent survey by Education Post, the vast majority of black and Latino parents support college-and-career-ready standards and attendant testing. But their rights are thrown under the bus as wealthy Park Slope denizens embellish their anti-accountability fervor with a thin gloss of self-righteousness.

Abolition indeed.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
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Laura Waters
Laura was weaned on education and equity issues because her mom was a social worker and her dad was a social studies teacher in New York City public schools. She can no more get this passion out of her blood than she can her New York accent, even though she has lived in Central Jersey now for over 20 years. She and her husband have four children, and her youngest has multiple disabilities. Laura has been on her local school board for 12 years. She keeps education leaders on their toes at NJ Left Behind.

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