Opt-out is whiter, more privileged and more clueless than we even suspected

Opt-outers tend to consider themselves “progressives” so they don’t like to see themselves as the privileged few who put their kids’ comfort ahead of the needs of other school children.

But it turns out that’s exactly who they are.

According to this recently released national survey about opt-out conducted by the Teachers College at Columbia University:

The typical opt out activist is a highly educated, white, married, politically liberal parent whose children attend public school and whose household median income is well above the national average. The movement brings together Democrats (46.1 percent), Republicans (15.1 percent), Independents (33.3 percent), and supporters of other parties (5.5 percent)

It also turns out opt-out is not much of a grassroots “movement” of parents. Some promoting the benefits of opting out don’t even have school-aged children. The Columbia survey demonstrates the opt-out movement was dominated by teachers’ responses and their concerns about tying student test results to evaluation:

Interestingly, almost one‐fifth of respondents (19.5 percent) did not have school‐aged children. Thus the opt out movement consists of a broader range of activists than just parents who opt their children out of tests. The movement includes parents, parents who do not opt out, and parents whose children are not in the public school system, as well as non‐parents.

Not progressive and not grassroots

And it is driven as much by fear of low scores and inconvenience as it is by philosophical opposition to testing. As The 74 summarizes:

A closer look, however, shows that opting out of state tests—administered in grades 3-8 and one year in high school—has appealed only to a narrow demographic.

It also seems to have occurred, at the high school level especially, out of convenience rather than in opposition to testing.

In states with the largest number of opt-outs, students who chose not to take tests were mostly white and affluent; a large percentage were 11th-graders, whose crowded spring testing calendars also included college-prep and Advanced Placement exams.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Opt-outers don’t know what’s best for the families who are the real victims of the anti-accountability movement—black and brown students, disabled kids and students learning English, students from low-income families, all those students ill-served by our nation’s worst schools and some of our best schools too.

We now have the data that reveals opt-out for what it really is: a luxury, afforded to white, affluent taxpayers and parents who are blessed with well-funded schools, stable teaching staffs, and some assurance that their privilege will pave the way for their child’s success.

We’ve known for a long while that the opt-out epicenter is in Long Island, New York, where nearly half of the students in two of the wealthiest counties refused to participate in testing. And a recent New York Newsday editorial rightly points out that many of the complaints cited by the opt-outers are no longer valid, given the changes made to the New York state tests and the lack of any consequences for teachers:

Test results for individual students are more detailed and are released earlier to teachers. The percentage of test questions released has tripled. All questions are scrutinized by teachers before the tests. The tests are shorter, and their time limits are gone. All learning objectives have been reviewed to assure they are appropriate. Strong teaching tools are in place. And the teacher evaluation method that created so much fear among educators and parents, based partly on student achievement on the tests, is in a four-year moratorium.

What the “opt-out” activists could reasonably expect to achieve, they have. So now it’s time to end the opt-out movement.

Time will tell whether common sense prevails in Long Island and nationwide. I’m not holding out much hope that these privileged parents will see the light and start to think about the needs of children less fortunate than their own. But if they stubbornly persist, some of these tony schools will be penalized for low participation with failing ratings. And that will hurt the property values of the #OptOutSoWhite crowd.

Perhaps this is the only message that will work for these self-described progressives: An appeal to selfishness and their own financial interests.

What do you think?
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Tracy Dell'Angela

Tracy Dell'Angela

Tracy loves to ask questions and write stories. She roots for the underdog, wants our nation to reimagine schools and the teaching profession, and seethes about how much school inequity she sees. She spent most of her career as a journalist covering schools and crime. She and her husband raised two daughters in a diverse suburb of Chicago. She currently runs an education foundation in her community and formerly served as managing editor of Education Post. After leaving journalism she explored her wonkier side communicating school research at the University of Chicago and the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. She is Californian by birth and a Chicagoan in spirit. She loves the outdoors and all animals, especially her spoiled "dingo" dog.

  49 comments for “Opt-out is whiter, more privileged and more clueless than we even suspected

  1. Avatar
    Pissed off parent and public school teacher working in a poor urban school district
    August 13, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    This is THE MOST ridiculous and asinine blog post I have ever read. First it might indeed be mostly white highly educated parents because they know that can opt-out. Those parents who are in low socioeconomic areas may not ever hear that they can indeed opt out. It’s not like the department of education or school district is going to say, ” oh by the way your child doesn’t have to take this stupid, waste of time and money tests.”
    She also contradicted her self by stating that is basically rich white folks wanting to make life easier for their kids during a busy time of year, then stating that many of the opt out people don’t even have children. Which is it lady?

    • Tracy Dell'Angela
      Tracy Dell'Angela
      August 14, 2016 at 7:55 am

      thanks for your comments, however disrespectful they may be. I find it interesting that you assume parents in low socioeconomic areas must be ignorant of opt out, rather than making a conscious choice that avoiding a test is not in the best interest of their students. It’s distressingly condescending. And there was no contradiction here. The surveys clearly identify the demographic of which parents actually opted out, and what proportion just joined the “movement” because they opposed testing and accountability. Take a look.

      • Avatar
        August 15, 2016 at 9:40 am

        In your reply to the first writer you wrote: “I find it interesting that you assume parents in low socioeconomic areas MUST be ignorant of opt out …” [emph. mine]

        That is, of course, not what the respondent wrote. S/he wrote: “Those parents who are in low socioeconomic areas MAY not ever hear that they can indeed opt out.” [emp. mine]

        Is there a reason you put words in that poster’s mouth? You recognize that this behavior, too, is intellectually dishonest.

        • Tracy Dell'Angela
          Tracy Dell'Angela
          August 15, 2016 at 2:30 pm

          I actually didn’t put words in her mouth. I just found it interesting that the writer immediately jumped to the assumption that parents in low-income neighborhoods didn’t know (or MAY have not known) about test refusal/optout. Maybe they don’t agree with your opinion that all testing is bad.

          • Avatar
            August 15, 2016 at 11:06 pm

            Again I beg you to please do your research!! Open your mind and read these comments and other articles, posts, blogs. Our kids are in trouble. Our teachers and schools are in trouble. Our future is absolutely in trouble. I refuse these tests because my straight A 6th grader was put into AIS. She is now entering 8th, and taking advanced math, is still high honors, and has not taken a standardized test since. Involved parents refuse, educate, and take a stand against testing. And yes, these parents are white. Some of them. But they are also black. They are Indian and Asian and Jewish and Catholic. They are on welfare and they make $200,000 per year. Whatever. They are involved and they understand. They refuse because they have done their homework. They refuse because it’s the only weapon we have to stand up and say stop!! They refuse because it’s all we can do.

      • Avatar
        August 15, 2016 at 9:56 am

        Tracy, you say that “[The opt-out movement] is driven as much by fear of low scores and inconvenience as it is by philosophical opposition to testing.”
        That is not at all what the data from your link to the Columbia research say. In fact that nationwide research lists NEITHER of those reasons as ones for which parents opt-out. Here’s what the data DO say are the top reasons:
        “I oppose using students’ performance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers” (36.9 percent)
        “Standardized tests force teachers to teach to the test” (33.8 percent)
        “I oppose the growing role of corporations in schools” (30.4 percent)
        “Standardized tests take away too much instructional time” (26.5 percent)
        “I oppose the Common Core State Standards” (25.8 percent)
        “I oppose the privatization of schools” (16.0 percent)

        What is there a reason you left his data out of your blog entry?

      • Avatar
        August 15, 2016 at 10:20 am

        Tracy, why does it matter that “almost one‐fifth of respondents (19.5 percent) did not have school‐aged children”? Are you suggesting that couples who do not yet have children should not care about what happens in their schools? What of other taxpayers who have already seen their children through school or who simply plan not to have them? Why would that matter regarding their views about educating society’s children?
        Everyone who pays taxes has “skin in the game,” whether or not they currently have children, so how is their status re: children a qualifier in this discussion?

      • Avatar
        August 15, 2016 at 3:56 pm

        Another clueless scribe with absolutely no concept what the children in our schools need. Instead of politicians in the pockets of the privatization movement and keyboard warriors, like yourself, making these decisions, public school policy should be driven by ACTUAL educators. We know what kids need. The most engaged parents are also most active, it’s a shame all parents are not as actively involved in their kids education. Less schools would ‘fail’. Do yourself a favor and go cover a long island ducks game, as that’s closer to to your abilities as a reporter.

      • Avatar
        August 15, 2016 at 4:12 pm

        APPR and all this absurd testing do not take a few very important components into consideration. 1. ABSENTEEISM. I had a student appear in class TWICE all year…despite phone calls, letters, etc. Kid shows up to take test…bombs it of course, and that score counts against my APPR score. This is the #1 reason why kids scores are so low in some parts of the state. My students, over the last 10 years AVERAGE 30 absences a year. 2. EFFORT. I’m not the parent. I have the child 45min each day. It’s the parents responsibility to see to it that their child is completing assignments at home and….drum roll please…..actually STUDYING. Those are just 2 of many examples.

      • Avatar
        Two Teachers
        August 16, 2016 at 7:59 pm

        I teach in a high needs school where only 9% were deemed proficient and it’s absolutely parent non-involvement and non awareness driving out high opt-in rates. Look at the CASA school in the Bronx by contrast where informed parents absolutely opt out.

        Also please know it’s the wrong tactic to play the race card when you are defending invalid junk science funded by corporate pay for play. If you want to convince anyone to take the tests, prove them reliable, show the secret formulas (no one still knows how SWDs or ELLs are counted) and openly debate the scientific criticisms.

        People should know that Jeb Bush, Bill Gates and Eli Broad fund astroturf everyday to amplify pro-reform voices way out of real proportion. If parents want to opt out, make the tests useful please.

      • Avatar
        August 17, 2016 at 9:18 am

        Where is this survey? As one of the people who were one of the first in 2010 to begin challenging the existence of this program, why was I not given such a survey? Why were none of my counterparts aware of this survey? Who ran this “survey”? What was the purpose of it? Who funded it? I find it bizarre at best that not a single person involved in the stop common core NY movement has a CLUE about this research. They weren’t interviewed or tested.

        HOW VERY BIASED/COMMON CORE of them!!!!!

      • Avatar
        August 17, 2016 at 9:27 am

        What an ill written and researched piece. Unfortunately your site won’t allow a full post of my response (apparently correcting your information took more characters than blog replies allow). Therefore I’m providing it here.https://www.facebook.com/notes/lisa-marie-commander-thomas/reply-to-tracy-dellangela-and-her-blog-entitled-opt-out-is-whiter-more-privilege/10154298289362860 The setting is public. You desperately need to do a lot more research.

    • Avatar
      August 15, 2016 at 9:29 am

      I agree with you, this is completely asinine! She needs to understand how & why the system made “underprivileged” ppl, and, that in fighting for equality and human rights, we are fighting against the root of the problem that allows lobbyists & capitalists to hijack the public school.

  2. Avatar
    August 14, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    I find it ridiculous that you use a picture that I was in as one of the co-founders of Florida Parents Against Common Core and call the opt out movement whiter than white…do you not have any other pics from NY where their opt out groups are very diverse?? You’re only trying to divide not unite. You are a disgrace to the actual movement. Period.

    • Avatar
      August 15, 2016 at 10:01 am

      Right! I wonder if she even noticed those involved in the movement in Baltimore City, they were majority Black. They have “bigger fish to fry”, but they were involved. But they need more out of this deal than less test. The test can be gone, & they’re still dealing with systematic racism, economic disparities, & being mis-educated by Americanized “history”. This is like asking ppl of color to fight in wars, then they come home & can’t get the gi bill home loan, they face jim crow, the kkk is alive and well protected by the govt, the gov’t participates in the destruction of affluent Black communities…. What did they gain out of going to war? What progress will ppl of color, & the underprivileged gain if this branch is cut off of the tree of white elitism controlling society?

  3. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 6:16 am

    I am far from rich, but I do have a job. My husband and I both work our butts off but live pretty much paycheck to paycheck. I strongly request you continue your research, please. You will be surprised at what you will find if you open your eyes. Roughly 70% of all students who take the standardized test in NY, fail. More than 90% of students with disabilities fail. “Economically disadvantaged students” and “English as a Second Language” students fail. Why? Not because they are “dumb”, not because their teachers don’t teach them, and not because their schools are failing them. They fail because these tests are doing exactly what they are created to do. Our government wants to prove public schools are failing so they can completely shut down the public school system and replace them all with Charter schools. Why? To improve education? Don’t be fooled. Charter schools are making millionaires become billionaires. Some investors are foreign and receiving free visas in exchange for their investment. Cuomo and many other politicians are owned by these billionaire investors. Schools like mine, small and successful with an incredible reputation, are being targeted. New York Mills in upstate NY had a tiny group of “students with disabilities” who tested poorly. Remember, more than 90% of students with disabilities test poorly in NYS. We are now a focus district because of 3 students in the Jr/Sr HS and about 10 in the elementary with disabilities who tested poorly. My school could be shut down because of parents who listened to articles like this and parents that simply were not aware of the truth. If the state did not have this data, if everyone opted out, they couldn’t call our wonderful students “failures”. These are the students who need our help the most. We have to protect them. How would you feel if this was your child being blamed for this designation? It’s bullying at its finest! For ELA, an IEP means nothing. Kids that generally have their work read to them must sit and stare at the paper that they can not even read. But don’t worry, they get all the time they need, so they can stare at it for countless hours! Don’t be fooled! They are on their own. I have a friend whose daughter has severe epilepsy and reads at a 2nd or 3rd grade level but was a 6th grader. She would be faced with a 6th grade standardized test if her very involved mother had not opted her out. The Opt Out movement is to protect our children, and ALL children, everywhere. It’s to protect our teachers and our schools. It’s to stand up and say this is wrong! The tests are designed to make sure they fail. The “learning material” is created by the same companies and presented to our teachers like an impossible script. Pearson was fired a year before our kids took their test yet again. It’s all corrupt and overwhelming. As a person who has the ability to share her opinion with many, I beg you to please keep researching! Our kids need you to find the truth!

  4. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 8:21 am

    This picture has absolutely nothing to do with the opt out movement. Easy now.

  5. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 9:10 am

    “Folks of color” are fighting for our lives & human decency. So excuse us, if we’re so busy in this white supremacist society, that we’re not well informed on the “opt-out” movement. If there were more white ppl that engaged in the war against inequality in this nation, then maybe we wouldn’t even be in this. Imagine what would’ve happened at every juncture in American history if working class white ppl were vehemently opposed to the systematic control of the white elite. (see Bacon’s rebellion, see Theodore Allen’s The Invention of the White Race)

    • Avatar
      August 16, 2016 at 12:22 am

      Research better= write better. Still think #OptOutSoWhite? Erasure of activists of color seems to be ok with you. Dismissing parents of color, and teachers of color because you dont see enough of them. Convenient. Well, all of us POC are used to stories that only get a small piece of the story right. I guess we must become more visible. Challege accepted.

  6. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 9:34 am

    The Ed Source link in “The 74” does not point to “fear of test scores” at all. From where are you getting that idea?
    Furthermore, the Ed Source study from which “The 74” article derives clearly states it’s examining only 4 schools in California. We both know that’s hardly a credible sample size. Why “The 74” elected to generalize the survey results from a meager four schools to the entire nation, I couldn’t say. Laziness? An agenda? But whatever their own reasons, I would advise you to do a spot of research on your sources rather than taking them whole-clothe, adding your own unsupported claims (about fear of test scores in this case) and then publishing them. It looks more than a little agenda-ridden.
    This is especially true when the Ed Source article goes on to say: “In other parts of the country the reasons for opting out have usually been far different, including general opposition to the Common Core standards and how scores on tests aligned with them are being used.”
    It was, of course, intellectually dishonest to leave that part out since it strikes against your thesis, but there it is. Now it merely remains for parents like me to go through your blog entry – and the rest I suppose – pointing out half-truths, sweeping generalizations, and whatever other methods of misinformation parents like you employ.

  7. Avatar
    Dan Masi
    August 15, 2016 at 10:17 am

    I’d suggest the the author might consider doing deeper research, unless she’s out to “prove” a pre-biased notion of hers. “The 74” isn’t exactly a source of objective data, and the Columbia survey is just that: a survey. The author doesn’t even attempt to delve into the administration/respondent bias of the survey, nor does she seem to care that it represents, on average, about 35 people per state.

    Here in NJ, we have over 100,000 kids supposed to take each of the PARCC tests. Because NJ has decided to focus on PARCC Algebra I and ELA 10 as graduation readiness indicators, I took a look at the raw opt-out data for those tests. This data represents all ~100k students taking each of these tests, not a survey. In NJ, the opt-out percentage (i.e. percentage of that subgroup who were “supposed” to take the test but opted not to) for 2015 ELA 10 was 29.3% for whites and 30.3% African-American. For Algebra I, the opt-out percentages were 21.2% white, 26.3% for African-Americans.

    Here is a graph of opt-out percentage for the Algebra I PARCC test throughout NJ, broken down by District Factor Group. DFG is a way NJ classifies districts by like socioeconomic status (plenty of info on this available by Googling). Takeaway here is that there appears to be no correlation whatsoever between opt-out percentage and socioeconomic status.


  8. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Bingo Erica. Teachers College knew what they were going to get for respondents when their reach was throughout the movement itself and had almost no way of reaching (it wasn’t even designed to reach) the POC being harmed the most from the test and punish accountability method. When we opt our kids out, it’s not only protecting our own from the stress and uselessness of it, but we’re protesting it’s use for all as a method of assessment.

    In breezing past the opposition to standardized testing as a form of assessment, the blogger turns a blind eye to the civil disobedience being performed in hopes of benefiting *all* and not just our own.

    We don’t initiate a hostile relationship with our kids’ school staff for simply the purpose of getting them out of a test, we do this to protest against a test that is invalid, unreliable, not research-backed, discriminatory, and results in perpetuates systemic racism. After the time issues (which unlimited is a problem too), after the eval issues, after the question secrecy issues, after teacher training, after so many issues it’s still a a multiple-choice, one-size-fits-all, corporate owned and created, profit motive driven, invalid method of assessment.

    We don’t FIGHT BACK when admins tell our kids to keep quiet about their Opting Out simply because it’s their 1st amendment right to free speech, we do this so that other kids will learn of it and ask their teachers and parents about it.

    We don’t demand adequate educational opportunities for our kids while they aren’t taking the test simply because we don’t want our kid to be bored, we do this to create legitimate spaces for learning for any kid who opts out too and to make it THE PLAN going forward for the school so that it’s not so much of a fight for parents/students in the future. Pushing for Performance Assessment and opting IN to the alternative forms of assessment that many districts already have in their policies from before standardized testing.

  9. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 10:53 am

    What a pity. Were those questions too inconvenient?

    • Tracy Dell'Angela
      Tracy Dell'Angela
      August 15, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      here’s an inconvenient question: John, Kathleen and all the other opt-out parents out there, let me ask you this: Are your kids planning to go to college? If so, will they (or did they) take either the SAT or ACT tests? Are you/were you tempted to invest in a course or a tutor or a book to help them do better on these tests? if the answer is yes, then how does this square with your general disdain for standardized testing and the money made from testing? Are these tests an imperfect measure of college readiness? Yes, of course. Are they stressful? Hell yes. They sure were for my daughters, especially for one who struggles with intense test anxiety. Did I tell her she didn’t have to take it because I didn’t want her stressed? Of course no–because she’s not a snowflake. She wanted to go to college, and she needed solid scores to get in. And sometimes when you want something, you have to be willing to struggle a bit. This is the essential hypocrisy of the so-called anti-testing movement–they resist testing at the school level because there are no stakes for them (although plenty for the subgroups of children whose achievement gaps were hidden for years) but when it comes to making sure their own kids get ahead in the rigged game of college-admissions, well, not hearing much about affluent white parents opting out there, are we? Point me to the opt out testing purists, and I’ll give them their due. But stop trying to force your values on parents who stand to lose even more ground when accountability–however imperfect– disappears from schools.

  10. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Let’s start with the fact that any survey conducted online is certain to skew towards a privileged demographic. That is also the same demographic that feels empowered by their status to take action. For example, I know many families who oppose testing but do not opt their children out due to their fear of doing anything at all that might bring attention to them because of their immigration status. These same people also do not have easy access to the internet and are not fluent in the English language. Their opinions will never be captured in an online, English language survey.
    As far as your narrative that the opt out movement is “dominated” by teachers (45% = domination, apparently) you left out the quotes from two of those teachers interviewed in the study: “As one respondent wrote: ‘I am a teacher, I see the horrible truth associated with testing.’ Another wrote: ‘I am a teacher and knew I had parental rights regarding my children’s education.’ ” Here’s a fun statistic about who “dominated” in this survey, from the study again: “About four‐fifths of the respondents (81.5 percent) were parents or guardians of school‐aged children.” When teachers opt their own kids out, does this not make one question the testing? Or are you insinuating that the big, bad teachers would actually do something that harms their own children in order to avoid their evaluations being tied to test scores?
    The most hilarious part of this is that after you rail against the white privileged females identified in the study, you quote The 74, Campbell Brown’s little venture. Talk about a white privileged woman! And I noticed you fail to mention that her husband Dan Senor, at the time of her venture into the business of charter schools, sat on the board of Students First. Readers can see more here about Campbell Brown and the funding sources for The 74. http://www.salon.com/2016/03/30/campbell_brown_charter_evangelist_how_the_former_anchorwoman_became_the_face_of_education_reform_partner/
    And finally this: “We now have the data that reveals opt-out for what it really is: a luxury, afforded to white, affluent taxpayers and parents who are blessed with well-funded schools, stable teaching staffs, and some assurance that their privilege will pave the way for their child’s success.” Yes. It is a luxury afforded to those who are blessed with those things. People who work in the fields picking your food do not have the luxury to spend time on the computer like I am today responding to your nonsense.
    Please tell me where you advocate for those well-funded schools with stable teaching staffs for all students? All I see you advocating for is testing. How will testing supply those needed resources to ALL students? Again, you left out an important quote from the study: “The top six reasons for participation were: ‘I oppose using students’ performance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers’ (36.9 percent), ‘standardized tests force teachers to teach to the test’ (33.8 percent), ‘I oppose the growing role of corporations in schools’ (30.4 percent), ‘standardized tests take away too much instructional time’ (26.5 percent ), ‘I oppose the Common Core State Standards’ (25.8 percent) and ‘I oppose the privatization of schools’ (16.0 percent). Most of these motivations/reasons reflect a progressive critique of the negative consequences of standardized testing on schools and the role of the private sector in public education.” Test scores have been used to further destabilize communities that do not have the luxury, blessing, or privilege of well-funded schools and stable teaching staffs by closing their schools and bringing in programs like Teach for America that places teachers in classrooms with as little as five weeks training and who often cycle out at the end of their two year commitment.
    All parents have the right to direct their children’s education. Your threatening stance to defund “tony” schools is indicative of the big problem with you reformy types: you think you can dictate to people and require us all to fund your private enterprises with our tax dollars. Sorry. We’re not having it.
    And by the way, Title I schools are the ones that receive federal funds. Where I live, the “tony” schools are funded principally by local property taxes. And therein lies the problem of disparity in school resources. Perhaps you could advocate for changing that funding mechanism to something more equitable rather than more and more testing that wastes time and money only to repeatedly point out that disparity.

  11. Avatar
    Dan Masi
    August 15, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    I’d suggest the the author might consider doing deeper research, unless she’s out to “prove” a pre-biased notion of hers. “The 74” isn’t exactly a source of objective data, and the Columbia survey is just that: a survey. The author doesn’t even attempt to delve into the administration/respondent bias of the survey, nor does she seem to care that it represents, on average, about 35 people per state.

    Here in NJ, we have over 100,000 kids supposed to take each of the PARCC tests. Because NJ has decided to focus on PARCC Algebra I and ELA 10 as graduation readiness indicators, I took a look at the raw opt-out data for those tests. This data represents all ~100k students taking each of these tests, not a survey. In NJ, the opt-out percentage (i.e. percentage of that subgroup who were “supposed” to take the test but opted not to) for 2015 ELA 10 was 29.3% for whites and 30.3% African-American. For Algebra I, the opt-out percentages were 21.2% white, 26.3% for African-Americans.

    Here is a graph of opt-out percentage for the Algebra I PARCC test throughout NJ, broken down by District Factor Group. DFG is a way NJ classifies districts by like socioeconomic status (plenty of info on this available by Googling). Takeaway here is that there appears to be no correlation whatsoever between opt-out percentage and socioeconomic status.


    • Tracy Dell'Angela
      Tracy Dell'Angela
      August 15, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Dan, thanks for the NJ data. But don’t see any reference for your data that suggests Black and White parents are opting out in equal measure. Please provide this. And not sure DFGs are the most accurate measure of socioeconomic status. The data is 16 years old at this point. And consider this: In NJ, thirty-two districts had over 350 test refusals. Of those thirty-two, twenty-three have median family incomes of over $100,000 per year and less than 5% of families who live below the poverty lines. They are mostly white and Asian. Median family incomes in these twenty-three districts range from a low of $102,410 (1.7% below poverty level) in West Milford to a high of $153,996. (0.5% below the poverty level) in Northern Highlands.

      • Avatar
        Dan Masi
        August 17, 2016 at 5:53 pm

        Tracy, the data used in crunching those numbers comes directly from NJDOE, here: http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/15/parcc/excel.htm

        As to DFG not being “the most accurate” indicator of socioeconomic status, I’m not sure what your point is. Certainly, some districts have moved up or down the scale a bit and a new alignment is due, but are you seriously refuting that the graph, which is essentially flat, has any meaning relative to your claim that opt-out is for “white, affluent taxpayers”? Come on. Again, look at the data; this is clearly not a “white” phenomenon. Your mentioning of the Asian population shows that you haven’t really looked into this much, because in NJ, the Asian population is significantly UNDER-represented in opt-out. And the number of districts with more than 350 test refusals is kind of meaningless if you don’t include district sizes and what percentage those refusals represent.

        If you really want to be honest in your quest to understand why NJ opted out of PARCC, I’d suggest you start by looking at PARCC itself.

  12. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Pretty flakey research. The population among which they surveyed is highly questionable. Fascinating that Tracey just takes at face value that they were surprised to find 18.5% didn’t have kids. As a consumer researcher, that show a huge survey flaw.

    What screening criteria were used to select participants? One would expect that to survey about the “opt out” movement, one would be interested in the people who are taking the action to opt out. Hence, no one without kids should have been allowed to participate. Invalidates the research.

    Here’s what the survey authors say: “We recruited respondents online, through links on the webpages and social media channels of opt out groups.” That is the single worst approach to recruiting respondents possible. Incredibly flakey and unreliable. Tracey: You should have tossed out the results not reported on them.

    That said, I’ll observe that it takes considerable time and effort to surmount the bureaucratic hurdles thrown in the way of Opt Out (a legal right) by the US and state departments of education. Here in Oregon, the state mandated that school districts invoke intimidating language to try to lower opt outs.

    As a result, those parents with less time and mental energy to investigate (and get past the huge barriers) to be less likely to opt out. It’s not a choice based on knowledge – but a choice based on life circumstances.

    All in all – a pretty flakey write that leads me to expect Tracey is one of the test naive’s who cheerlead for tests and are desperate to defend them… A little solid analysis would have helped this piece considerably.

  13. Avatar
    Jess Cottrill
    August 15, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Curious as to how much one makes as a professional asskisser these days? Because obviously using journalism for truth and honesty mustn’t pay very well.
    It is also glaringly apparent that anyone can throw together some BS “opinions” unsubstantiated with facts and authentic opinions from REAL people in this system, aka “big business”. Shame on you, a mother, for your one-sided, limited, inaccurate, ignorant and prejudiced piece on a crisis all children, teachers, and parents in public education face.
    May you sleep well at night knowing you are just as tainted and mean-spirited as the ones who are abusing the very children the Opt Out Movement works to empower and protect.

  14. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    I think that the blog writer made this crap up. My first clue was when she brought race into it. My second was when she states the REFUSAL movement (there’s ANOTHER “fact” for ya! In NYS you CANNOT opt out, but you CAN refuse! Unlike some, WE did our research enough to know this before we started it!) was started by teachers and their issues. The refusal movement was started by parents who had already gone the usual routes. Clue three, made up of rich white people. Shall I continue?
    This is another sham price written by someone who wants to pretend she knows what’s what.

  15. Avatar
    Christina Tuohey
    August 15, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    The common core curriculum and associated tests are age inappropriate, developmentally inappropriate, purposely confusing, often having no correct answers, occasionally two answers that are considered to be correct, several grade levels above testing level, etc.

    Test results come in after the child has already moved onto the next grade. Parents are provided with a number from 1 to 4, which is essentially means nothing. Teachers are not provided with additional information that would help remediate a child. The test is basically useless. A huge moneymaker for big corporations.

    As far as special needs students are concerned, giving a test that is often 3 to 4 years above the students grade level doesn’t provide any useful information. All it accomplishes is making students feel quite bad about themselves.

    Why on earth would you opt in?

    • Tracy Dell'Angela
      Tracy Dell'Angela
      August 15, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks for responding Christina. As for testing special needs students, I certainly respect the rights of parents to advocate for the best assessments and accommodations for their children. You are entitled to your opinion about the test being “basically useless” but it doesn’t make it true, and there are many independent educators and psychometricians who would disagree.

  16. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    White✔️ College educated✔️ High needs/High Poverty district. School Board memeber. Knows enough that changes were not halted only delayed. I guess I only got two of your criteria to be a member of the “opt-out movement.

  17. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    All this new high-powered, high-stakes testing does is continue to identify those students that other testing shows and teachers already know need additional help and resources. Problem is that FUNDING for those resources never comes close to matching the huge numbers of students who ARE identified. We’ve been “identifying” for over a decade now. Time to do far more. Merely identifying students is never going to close any achievement gaps. These tests only verify what teachers already know about their students. Furthermore, they exist solely to grade teachers and schools and to enrich the big corporations that write them, sell them, and score them. The tests costs states many millions per year to administer. In very many schools teachers still don’t get to see this data until LONG after the testing is done, maybe early in he next school year. Then there’s the whole issue of data mining of students by online testing. There are no guarantees your child’s data will not be shared with other companies or that it’s even secure in cloud storage. Even Bill Gates will tell you that. Reading specialists will tell you that these tests are too-often written 2 grade levels above the tested grade level. There are many many reasons why parents decide to opt their students out of high-stakes testing, some of which the author of this blogpost seems to be blissfully unaware of. Opt-out is a right that parents have in many or most states. Do more research.

  18. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Hmm, you’ve got lots of detractors here. Maybe it was your citation of “The 74”, which is funded and operated by the same rich privileged white folks you decry as the leadership of the Opt Out movement. Look into what Dan Senor, the husband of the clueless, arrogant, white, rich, entitled Campbell Brown does to make his money. Then get back to us about who’s who in the education landscape.

  19. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    The tests are useless. The rationale:

    1. They are norm-based, rather than criterion-based. That means they are designed to rank and sort, not assess understanding of the standard. That’s why we have 4 achievement levels rather than 2 (i.e. this student has achieved proficiency of the standard but that student has really, really achieved proficiency of the standard), that’s why we have percentiles on the score reports, and that’s why we have questions on the tests above grade-level.

    2. They measure achievement, not learning. These are not the same thing.

    3. They are pitched as indicators of being “on track for college- and career-readiness”. By the Office of State Assessment’s own admission, they cannot measure college- or career-readiness (not enough years of data to even try). Proficiency rates are also well below (more than 100% below) real-world outcomes, like collegiate enrollment rates, even when those rates are restricted to just those that take no remedial coursework or persist to their second year of college.

    4. They serve too many masters: assessing proficiency in standards, ranking students, ranking schools, ranking districts, ranking states, evaluating educators, receivership, Focus and Priority school identification, promotion & detention, etc.

    5. They tell us nothing we didn’t already know. 80% of a school’s scaled test score can be predicted on the basis of demographics alone. This was also true of the older assessments with higher proficiency rates. This is a critical point, because we keep wasting time trying to learn things we already know rather than addressing the root causes of the problem (primarily poverty).

    6. They are too narrow in scope to assess a well-rounded education.

    7. They are rooted in a philosophy that the public K-12 system exists to serve the needs of higher education and industry, hence the need for “accountability” and a constant reference to the “21st century global economy”, “college- and career-readiness”, STEM education, non-fiction texts, and a “return on education investment”. We need to shatter this idea and return the focus of K-12 education back to the service of the students themselves. Wake me when we start talking about downward accountability, i.e. that we have served the needs and interests of our students.

  20. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Would the author’s employment by Education Post, a pro corporate reform advocacy journalism outlet, have anything to do with her position on this post? When you are citing The 74 as a legitimate news source, your credibility goes out the window.

  21. Avatar
    August 15, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    On the plus side, more persons have commented on this post than on all of the Education Post’s posts ever!

  22. Avatar
    August 16, 2016 at 6:10 am

    The author of this piece is not a teacher and has never taught. Sh’s a managing editor for the corporate reform publication Ed Post, which is funded by chief corporate school reformer Bill Gates. Think this piece might in any way be biased?

    • Avatar
      Angry Student of Color
      August 17, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Are you sure that Gates is funding this writer? Can I see some proof, possibly some real research?

  23. Avatar
    August 16, 2016 at 6:47 am


  24. Avatar
    August 16, 2016 at 10:47 am

    So let me get this straight, opt-out is white and privileged, but the schools that get punished, closed, re-organized, or turned into charters with no public accountability are the ones that mostly serve black and brown kids? How do you hold on to the idea that we are selfish and out of touch?
    It so happens that my wife and I are white and my son is white. He would also do GREAT on the test. I don’t care. It’s not right for ANY child, school, teacher, parent or community, and we refuse the test on that principle.
    (BTW this comment got swallowed once; hope it doesn’t happen again.)

  25. Avatar
    Angry Student of Color
    August 17, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I found this incredibly well researched and well written. I have been through the entire testing process and understand that standardized tests do not show true talents and are based off of skills the state wishes students to be proficient in. Understand that all these petty comments prove just what this article says, you have nothing better to do then comment on a blog post and fight for the right to take your privileged child out of testing because they get nervous or might not do well. I understand test-anxiety having struggled with it myself-but parents who take their child out of testing are selfish because many people don’t have the ability to do that because they can’t afford to do it. Testing is a part of life, in everything we do, so get off your high horses and understand that your children will have to work harder then you did to get to the same place or higher than you. Also everybody needs to check their privilege and ultimately understand that you can’t be racist against white people, just stop. Stooping to a low level right there and it’s getting so annoying as a person of color. Also all of you are pathetic for attacking this woman and demeaning her by not even using her name.

    • Avatar
      Tricia Farmer
      August 18, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Please check the test results from Kentucky, the first state to implement Common Core. The achievement gap has expanded. This blog has no research at all. It is assumptions based on a flawed survey dominated by teachers. My husband is a school board member and was forced to sign on to the Common Core standards before there were even seen in order to get federal funding. Since then we have done a great deal of research into the standards themselves and have found that the 2 main experts on the validation committees both refused to sign off because the standards were flawed and lacking. The math expert, Dr. James Milgram, who was responsible drafting the previous California state standards testified that they had narrowed the achievement gap under the old standards prior to implementing Common Core because the previous math standards were higher in CA. They had a greater percentage of African-American students going into accelerated math. That percentage has dropped under Common Core. It is not just about the tests. In NYS, they convened a task force to review the standards and the results have found the flaws which we have been stating all along. It is the opt-out movement alone that pushed the state to do a review. This is what it is all about. Improvement of our schools and standards, fixing flaws not just tests.

  26. Avatar
    Alma Marquez
    August 17, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    THANK YOU for this! Honesty matters and I appreciate you confirming so much of what many of us suspected!

  27. Avatar
    Tricia Farmer
    August 18, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Tracy – Would love to have an in-depth discussion with you in regard to the Common Core standards and the real reason the opt out movement began. Way too much time is being spent on the analysis of these trite little surveys. The Teachers College at Columbia University might want to do research into the Common Core standards and the goals and outcomes they will be producing. I think they surely will be disappointed in the prospective students in the next few years who are currently educated under Common Core. I see you have 2 college aged children so you really have had no firsthand knowledge or experience with the Common Core standards. NYS was one of the first states to implement Common Core and this year’s graduating class is really the first to be subjected to it. By the way, Kentucky was the first and you might want to check their results on the achievement gap. Common Core has actually expanded the gap. Now I’d first like to identify that I am not a liberal progressive and I did not opt my children out because the tests were too hard. In fact, my kids took the first round of Common Core tests and scored 4s. They are both high achieving children and are in accelerated classes and certainly don’t stress over meaningless standardized tests. It would make sense that an activist is highly educated because they would have insight as to what is really going on, be able to better evaluate the standards and analyze how the lower standards are truly affecting their kids. My oldest son will be graduating this year and is in the first “guinea pig” class. Luckily though, he is in mostly accelerated classes and was not subjected to the lower standards. He did, however, have to take the Common Core aligned tests along with the old because of the ridiculous way NYS implemented the initiative. In NYS, you can’t opt out at the HS level because it affects your Regents diploma. He also took the old SAT and the new Common Core aligned SAT (brought to us by David Colemen, head of the College Board as well as the chief architect of the Common Core standards). Apparently the new tests and the new standards reflect a move away from critical thinking and analysis to a regurgitation of texts, quite the opposite of what the new standards claim. Over the past couple of years, I have also watched our HS curriculum change, being dumbed down to these new standards. My younger son is in the thick of it and what I am seeing is a much lower quality of instruction than what his brother received. So Tracy, my opposition to these tests are the flaws in the standards themselves which is at the root of why the movement began. Many of us have actively advocated from the beginning for changes to the standards. In NYS, it is the opt-out movement alone that is responsible for the state finally convening a task force to review the standards. In recent years it is the tying of test scores to teacher evaluations which also placed more emphasis on the tests, teaching to the tests and therefore stressed kids out about the tests that added to this movement. As you have indicated, the survey was dominated by teachers’ responses. Perhaps this survey is a poor survey which then draws poor conclusions and assumptions. I am not at all insulted by the conclusions you have drawn because they are not based on the real facts. You have jumped on the Arne Duncan theory with so many others. You might want to do some research in regard to the Common Core standards and how the 2 main experts on the validation committees would not sign off on them because they were both flawed and lacking, how school boards were forced to adopt them sight unseen (my husband is a school board member) prior to the final revisions even being released, the drop in the overall percent of kids going into accelerated math classes and how Common Core is actually increasing the achievement gap. And by the way New York Newsday is completely clueless in regard to all things Common Core. Thank you!

    • Tracy Dell'Angela
      Tracy Dell'Angela
      August 18, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Thanks so much for your very thoughtful reply. You are correct, my daughters did not experience Common Core rollout. However my views are informed by my years of education reporting, and working in policy and research around these issues. I would be happy to have a conversation with you about this. I will email you outside of this conversation.

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