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Deadline looms for public input re: US DoE punishing schools for standardized testing ‘opt-outs’

Monday’s deadline for public input is fast approaching regarding US Secretary of Education John King’s proposed amendment to the Every Student Succeeds Act — the 2015 successor to No Child Left Behind — which would penalize schools with a high number of student testing “opt-outs.”

The amendment would require a student testing participation rate of at least 95%. Without it, The Journal News reports, schools would be slapped with “the lowest performance level” of a state’s rating system.

New York state Senate candidate Julie Killian says such a penalty would be “catastrophic” for schools: “It would damage our schools’ reputation and send property values plummeting.”

New York US House candidate Phil Oliva added “This is the federal government and the Department of Education using local schools as sticks to bully parents away from exercising their legal rights.”

According to the article, “[a]bout 20 percent of the area’s public school parents have opted their children out of the state’s grades 3-8 exams for math and English language arts over the last few years. The test refusal protest is largely against the exams’ alignment with the Common Core standards. So far, districts have faced threats of losing funding for lack of participation, but nothing consequential has happened.”

Secretary King served as New York state’s education commissioner from 2011 to 2015.

In an editorial today, The Journal News writes

King imposed an ill-conceived “reform” agenda on our schools that focused on tougher tests and teacher evaluations. Smug and impervious to criticism, King alienated parents and teachers to such a degree that education policy, once the domain of jargon-dazed wonks, became the subject of daily supermarket chatter. King helped birth the testing “opt out” movement, the opposite of what he intended.

MORE: Principal: Standardized testing is ‘modern-day slavery’

Now, as the nation’s top education official, King is almost single-handedly trying to preserve the federal government’s power to boss around states and schools. If he succeeds, and he probably will, dozens of schools in the Lower Hudson Valley could be punished if parents decide to have their kids skip state tests. It’s nonsense.

Schools with high opt-out numbers would have to waste time and resources preparing “improvement plans.” It’s absurd for the feds to require states to punish school districts for the decisions of independent (and independent-minded) parents. Even if school leaders earnestly try to sell parents on the value of test-testing, skeptical parents can still go their own way.

The feds may be the ones who buckle in the end, however. Though New York currently has the strongest opt-opt movement, nationwide more and more are joining, the Washington Post reported earlier in the year.

When parents (and teachers, for that matter) see something “they believe is poorly designed and whose scores are being misused … threats from the government or schools won’t stop them.”

Read the full Journal News article and editorial.

MORE: Teen suspended for refusing Common Core test

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About the Author
Assistant Editor
Dave Huber is assistant editor of The College Fix. He has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over a decade, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. Dave is a retired educator with over 25 years of service who holds a B.A. and M.Ed. from the University of Delaware, as well as graduate student membership in the National Association of Scholars.

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