Education in Two Worlds: Can the "Opt Out" Movement Succeed?
There's a movement growing across the nation. It's called "Opt Out," and it means, refusal to subject oneself or one's children to the rampant standardized testing that has gripped public schools. The tentacles of the accountability testing movement have reached into every quarter of America's public schools. And the audience for this information is composed of politicians attempting to bust unions, taxpayers hoping to replace high-salary teachers with low-salary teachers, and Realtors dodging red-lining laws while steering clients to the "best schools." Those urging parents and students to refuse to be tested cite the illegitimacy of these motives and the increasing amount of time for learning that is being given over to assessing learning.
At present, the Opt Out movement is small — a few thousand students in Colorado, several hundred in New Mexico, and smatterings of ad hoc parent groups in the East. Some might view these small numbers as no threat to the accountability assessment industry. But the threat is more serious than it appears. Politicians and others want to rank schools and school districts according to their test score averages. Or they want to compare teachers according to their test score gains (Value Added Measurement) and pressure the low scorers or worse. It only takes a modest amount of Opting Out to thwart these uses of the test data. If 10% of the parents at the school say "No" to the standardized test, how do the statisticians adjust or correct for those missing data? Which 10% opted out? The highest scorers? The lowest? A scattering of high and low scorers? And would any statistical sleight of hand to correct for "missing data" stand up in court against a teacher who was fired or a school that was taken over by the state for a "turn around"? I don't think so.
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