This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.
There is great irony surrounding the many revisions made to recent education reforms since the historic opt-out movement of 2015, irony that will most definitely lead to the continued boycott of grade 3-8 math and ELA exams next month.
The parent-led movement to refuse to participate in the “state tests” was so successful last year it brought about listening tours by Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, a lengthy set of recommendations for changes by the governor’s Common Core Task Force and most recently, a new leader of the Board of Regents, a leader who immediately put her support behind the parent-led opt-out movement.
These developments are certainly steps in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to restore the trust of parents, especially at the local level.
Despite developments in Albany, our local schools, principals, boards of education and superintendents instead continue to discredit the valid, real and informed opinions of parents who have chosen to opt out of exams.
Not only is this an ironic slap in the face to those who have brought about positive change for our children, it will fan the flames of the opt-out movement. Most significantly, it’s a foolish and disrespectful stance that is dangerous to our children and the future of our public schools.
When school “leaders” choose to punish children for an action that their parents have a right to take, they model disrespectful behavior. Refusing to honestly and sincerely acknowledge the varying viewpoints within our communities, school officials send the message that kids and parents don’t matter. By valuing compliance above all, school officials forgo opportunities to nurture tolerance, acceptance, and understanding within our communities. Such coercion and close-mindedness should be called to question, regardless of one’s position on opting out.
Until local school leaders stand with opt-out supporters, advocate for children and public schools, and most importantly, treat parents with respect, the boycott will continue.
Based on developments since the historic opt-out movement of 2015, school leaders would be wise to follow the lead of parents who brought about change to protect kids and schools.
They might even consider saying, “Thank you.”
Jessica McNair is a New Hartford parent and co-founder of Opt Out CNY.