BY YVETTE BROWN
On Sunday, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee, held a rally in front of the Jackson Height Post Office on 37th Avenue between 78th and 79th streets with parents, students, teachers and education advocates to let the community know that they have a right to opt out of high stakes testing for their children and that the City Department of Education needs to inform them.
“Parents need to know that they can opt their children out of these high stakes, standardized tests,” said Dromm. “The New York City Department of Education has not done an adequate job of informing parents of their rights despite the City Council passing a resolution last year calling on the DOE to do just that.”
The New York State English Language Arts exams took place this week starting on Tuesday and ending on Thursday, while the math exams are scheduled for the following week. Last year, over 240,000 students in the state chose to opt out because parents disagree with the policies that reduce education to a few test scores. Parents have also discussed how the excessive testing has had detrimental effects on their children, while they have a right to opt out without any repercussions, many have yet to be informed of this right.
“ELA tests are still being used inappropriately by state and federal education departments. If these tests were only used to track academic development and identify areas in which students need improvement, they might be acceptable,” said Dromm. “However, state and federal education agencies continue to use them to evaluate schools and grade students. High stakes, standardized tests were never intended to be used this way. Parents should be able to opt their child out if they so choose especially when the validity of the test itself is in doubt.”
According to City Council, almost every year there are mistakes that are found on the tests and this has caused thousands of children to repeat a grade only for them to find out during the summer that they had actually passed the test.
In order to opt out of the high stakes test, according to Optoutnyc.com, “Notify the principal in writing that you intend to ‘refuse’ the tests on behalf of your child. Follow up with the principal to confirm a plan to engage your child in a meaningful activity during testing periods. Most schools will find a place for test refusals to read, work on homework or help out in another classroom. If you are told that your child must take the exams or that negative consequences will result from refusing the tests, refer the principal to the Parent Guide issued by the NYC Department of Education in March 2015. This document states, ‘if, after consulting with the principal, the parents still want to opt their child out of the exams, the principal should respect the parents’ decision and let them know that the school will work to the best of their ability to provide the child with an alternate educational activity during testing times.’”
“Parents from across New York City are calling on the NYS Education Department, Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor [Carmen] Fariña to respect the professionalism of NYC public school teachers by lifting the gag order and allowing teachers to openly discuss the tests with parents,” said Jane Maisel, parent, educator and NYC Opt Out member. “And before the tests begin on Tuesday the DOE should show equal respect for parents by emailing every parent and sending home by hard copy the clear message, without threats, and translated as needed, that parents have the right to decide if their child should take the state tests.”
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @eveywrites.