Sunday, April 3, 2016

We Will Be Opting Out, Again!
By:  Marla and Allan Kilfoyle, NY Parents

Opting out of flawed and abusive testing is a very personal choice for our family.  We made, and continue to make, a very conscious decision not to allow our son to participate in a testing system that does not give his teachers any constructive feedback on his progress in a timely fashion.  We will not allow him to take exams that are subpar in their development, developmentally inappropriate (our son is Learning Disabled and works behind grade level), and would require him to sit for 18 hours of testing.  It is a decision that we will never regret because we will never support a system that consciously sets him up to fail.   

We have not forgotten that in 2014 9 percent of children with special needs passed the state math tests, and 5 percent passed the ELA tests.   In 2015, 5.7 percent of children with special needs were proficient in ELA tests and 1 percent were proficient in math!  We are NOT confident much has changed. 

Also, we understand clearly that the cut scores were not based on science but driven by a political agenda.  In fact, the cut score for passing the CC state tests in 2014 were equivalent to 1630 on the SATs.  At the time, this meant that only 31% of the students would be passing the NYS  exams in 2014 – just as John King predicted!  Carol Burris does an excellent job of explaining the building of this concerted effort to fail the children of NYS.  

As parents, we have been exposed to the power of useful test results.  When we  sit down for our son’s annual IEP review, we are presented incredible information from testing that was done by his teacher and shared with us in a timely fashion.  The testing done to inform his IEP also allows us  to make therapeutic decisions for him, to make scheduling decisions for him, and enables us to create an education plan that is tailored to his needs!  Our experience with IEP testing solidifies what real quality educational testing should be about - timely results, appropriateness,  results that allow us to have a conversation with his teacher about his progress, results that help us make informed decisions about his education, and results that are based on science NOT political schemes!

Our opt out journey began in the 3rd grade.  We allowed him to take the first day of the ELA.  We refused him from testing the next day after he told us the test was confusing (there was more than one right answer for most of the questions he sadly shared with us).  He thought that his teacher had written a test that was meant to “trick” him (his words), and he was beaten by an exam that was written several grades above his level.  He felt betrayed because he was excited to take the test and show what he had learned.  He was excited to impress the teacher that he loved. He took the first day of the ELA test in April, so he was scored.  We did not get the results back until late July.  Our huge issue was, how do you use test results if the test is returned AFTER the child has left the testing grade and a teacher who knows him?  Furthermore, the information that the report gave back requires a doctorate in statistics to understand. The report also tells you to “discuss your child’s performance with the teacher.”  We were perplexed because by July he no longer had the same teacher but would be moving onto a teacher who really didn’t know him.  So, do we discuss his results with the teacher he will no longer have or the one he is going to have?  If the testing agenda had children and instruction in mind, the report would be very detailed, easy to read for any parent, and returned in a timely fashion so that the teacher and parent could perhaps have a meeting to address concerns.

As far as we know this has not changed.

We made a critical decision that our son would not be set up to fail but, more importantly, we were going to take a stand against a political agenda that sought to use and punish all children, blame teachers, and penalize communities!

We were bolstered somewhat when former NYS Education Chancellor Merryl Tisch stated she would think twice before opting into state testing if she had a special needs child and when the Governor indicated that the test results won’t count against students.

Despite the above statements, not much has changed, and we will be opting him out for the fifth year in a row. 

Our trust has not been won back!  Just as an aside, we are not happy about this at all.  We are angry that the Governor, NYSED, and various policy makers continue to IGNORE the voices of parents and educators. 

Here is why our trust has NOT been won back….

NYSED, Governor Cuomo, and former Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch (as well as her voting majority) lost our trust!

NYSED has taken steps to mislead parents.  With the battle cry the testing has changed, they have decided that untimed tests and shorter tests will gain back the trust of parents.  To us "untimed" tests mean that children will be spending MORE time on tests, not less!  Perhaps the most disgusting part about the fact that the tests are now untimed is that if a child needs MORE time, and needs to eat lunch, teachers are instructed to police their conversations so they will not talk about the tests.   See page

The tests are not much shorter and are still administered over three days! – Here is the breakdown. We view  this as NYSED omitting the real truth!  The tests are NOT that much shorter!
3-4 Grade ELA
Minus one reading  passage with six fewer multiple choice questions that correspond to the passage
Minus one short essay
5-8 Grade ELA
Minus one English passage and seven fewer multiple choice questions that correspond to the passage
Minus one  Essay
3rd Grade Math
Minus one multiple choice question
4th and 5th Grade Math
Minus four multiple choice questions
6th to 8th Grade Math
Minus four questions

We have also been told that tests will not count toward teacher evaluations because of a "moratorium." We know this not to be true - State Common Core tests will not count, and will be held in advisory (although we don't know what they will be used for) but teachers WILL STILL BE RATED ON SOME FORM OF TEST SCORES (local or state regents exams - whatever their districts negotiate).  We have made it clear to the teachers in our district that refusing the test is also standing up against an evaluation plan that is not valid nor supported by the American Statistical Association.  We will stand firmly beside them to fight this unfair evaluation plan that seeks to punish our children, teachers, and schools. 

Parents were also told that Pearson would not be involved in making the tests.  As we know the subpar exams produced by Pearson came under fire in NYS over the last two years and NYS ended up terminating the contract with Pearson. 

But, wait for it..

Pearson is still involved in creation of the tests.  Here is the Questar contract with NYSED that clearly outlines that Questar will use Pearson questions in 2016 and 2017, and draw from Pearson questions in 2018 and 2019.  See picture below (apologies, at publishing this was not available in a link.  When we receive it we will publish here).  

As strongly informed parents we will not be fooled by the rhetoric of well-funded Astrotruf groups who all seem to take money from foundations that support an education agenda that is about profit and not OUR children. Most of these Astroturf groups are aligned with the Governor and Tisch in their push to make NYS education a business model and NOT a child model.  These astroturf groups are spending tons of money telling parents to opt in!  High Achievement NY (HANY), in coalition with StudentsFirstNY,  launched a six-figure campaign to “opt in” to testing in NY.  Ironically HANY's director, Stephen Sigmund, doesn’t even live in NY and their organization lists 26 business interests as their “coalition” partners.  High Achievement NY is also surrounded by organizations that are highly funded by the Gates, Walton, and Broad Foundations.  We know that these very foundations have ushered in corporate education reforms that continue to subject OUR children to an abusive testing agenda that has tripled since 2009. Who are they really looking out for?  Not my son, and certainly not “other people’s” children who attend public schools. 

Perhaps the saddest ally to the grossly funded opt-in movement is the Gates-funded National PTA.  The National PTA  blusters that we should all opt in for a seat at the table!  The only reason we have a place at the table is because of Opt Out.  Make NO mistake that when 20% of parents refuse to take part in an education agenda that hurts their children – that is a referendum and a HUGE seat at the table!  We no longer belong to the PTA. 

The above context, alone, strongly supports our decision to OPT OUT because those who want us to “opt in” seem to be bought by money.  They certainly don’t have the best interest of children in mind but they sure do have the best interests of their financiers in mind.  

Sorry, if your voice is BOUGHT, we don’t trust you!

Sorry, if you say things have changed, and they really haven't changed that much, we don't trust you! 

We will be opting out in 2016! 

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