Education Week - June 10, 2015 - (Page 20)

COMMENTARY A Movement Gains Momentum W By Michael P. Evans & Andrew Saultz hile addressing a group of state schools superintendents in 2013, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described opposition to the Common Core State Standards as driven by "white suburban moms" whose primary concern was that "their child isn't as INSIDE OPT-OUT The Pushback Against Testing brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought." In essence, Secretary Duncan dismissed parental opposition as the byproduct of selfinterested parents who were more concerned about solidifying their social status than with the quality of education their children received. Unfortunately, this line of thinking has been all too common in education circles and has resulted in families being pushed to the margins when it comes to education policymaking. Two years later, opposition to both the common core and its affiliated assessments has grown exponentially. Concerned families are not going away, and they increasingly are tak- ing action to express their dissatisfaction by opting their children out of mandated state tests. As the opt-out movement gained momentum in Ohio, the state's department of education responded by providing school administrators with a two-page bulleted list of talking points that outlined potential consequences, including grade retention, ineligibility for high school graduation, and fallout for teachers, schools, and communities. Contrary to the oversimplified depiction of parents as self-interested actors, many families are still willing to risk short-term consequences for their children to send a larger message about the state of public education. Instances of parent activism are on the rise and are not limited to issues related to the common core and standardized testing. Across the United States, families are starting to organize both formally and informally around a wide range of public education issues, from concerns about school funding to the school-toprison pipeline. Perhaps not surprisingly, the emergence of these efforts runs parallel to the steady decline of local power in education policy. Currently, there are limited opportunities for family and community engagement in education policymaking, resulting in legislation that has centralized power in state capitals and Washington. Furthermore, when families are included in education policy, policymakers cast them in the supporting role of "public education consumer." It is a role that narrowly ABOUT THIS SPECIAL SECTION The current pushback against K-12 testing by parents reflects their growing discontent with the number and types of mandated assessments their children are taking, including those tied to the Common Core State Standards. Although it is difficult to gauge the size and demographics of the "opt out" movement, the potential of parents to change the conversation about testing-and drive a wedge into test-taking policies-has captured the attention of many communities, at times rattling school leaders and vexing state and federal policymakers. This collection of Commentaries, which continues online with a multimedia package, reflects a range of perspectives on parents' opting their children out of tests, from researchers who are studying the phenomenon, to parents who have long embraced testing boycotts, to teachers whose opinions on the subject vary widely. Support for this Commentary special section came from a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. Education Week retained sole control over the selection and editing of the content; the opinions expressed are those of the authors. What teachers are saying: ed " Steve Braden for Education Week defines family engagement and largely ignores the creative potential and wisdom of local communities. History tells us that social movements are often sparked at the local level, with early efforts supported by networks of individuals with strong ties (friends, family, neighbors, and others). As the Stanford University sociologist Doug McAdam noted in his writing about the civil rights movement, strong relationships with high levels of trust provide participants with the confidence to engage in high-risk activism. For opt-out families, this growth is being facilitated through the use of social media and by the development of national organizations like United Opt Out. At home in Ohio, the opt-out movement motivated the passage of safe-harbor legislation designed to protect parents, teachers, and school districts from the potential consequences of opting out of testing for the upcoming academic year. It is time for policymakers to reconsider how they engage with the public. We are in the process of conducting a study focused on the opt-out movement in Ohio. While our research is not yet complete, we have already discovered that the vast majority of the 614 districts in Ohio report that less than 2 percent of families have opted out. This means " that the fiercest opposition is centralized in a handful of districts, where anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of the families are choosing not to take part in testing. Based on news accounts, parents opting their children out of testing is a national trend, with some districts reporting that more than 50 percent of their eligible students have missed one or more tests. While occurrences of optouts are not evenly distributed, we believe that these pockets of dissent are significant, as they may signal the beginning of a broader change movement in public education-a movement in which families refuse to be marginalized in the educational policymaking process. The opt-out movement is evidence that education policymakers need to find new ways to engage with families and communities. Perhaps instead of jumping to conclusions about who these parent activists are, or what they believe, we should begin by slowing down and listening to what they have to say. Working with the public is the only true way to create sustainable educational change. n MICHAEL P. EVANS is an associate professor of family, school, and community connections at Miami University in Ohio. ANDREW SAULTZ is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Miami University. " The opt-out movement is dominated by middle-class families that are concerned for the welfare of their own children, but seem less concerned about poor children who are languishing in low-performing schools." We are sending a message to our children that if they do not like something or if it seems too difficult, then they do not have to do it. Allowing students to opt out of tests they don't feel like taking undermines education and harms our students." [F]or the opt-out movement to succeed, as I hope it does, we will need to acknowledge and highlight the full range of diversity of people supporting it. We can't allow it to be belittled and mischaracterized as just a bunch of white suburban moms." Cristina Duncan Evans - High School Social Studies Teacher "The Opt-Out Movement Needs to Address Educational Inequity" Marika Heughins -Middle School Teacher "What the Opt-Out Movement Teaches Students" Bill Ivey - Middle School Dean "Standardized Testing Has Created an Unfair Burden on Public Schools" NOT 20 | EDUCATION WEEK | June 10, 2015 |

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 10, 2015

Education Week - June 10, 2015
Cleveland Embraces Social- Emotional Learning
Challenge of Co-Teaching A Special Education Issue
As Federal Grants Taper Off, Two N.C. Districts Tally Impact
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: N.Y. ‘Open’ Content Going Nationwide
School Choice Supercharged In Nev. Statute
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Debate Persists Around Kindergarten Reading Standards
New York Expanding Dual Language to Help Its English- Learners
Schools, Students Hit Hard by California’s Historic Drought
Blogs of the Week
Massachusetts School Transforms Renovation Into Teachable Moment
Magnet Schools Found to Boost Diversity—But Only a Bit
Survey: Students Need More Than Academic Prowess
Education Policy Issues In Arizona Crossfire
Congress Appears Poised to Tackle Higher Education Issues
SIG Money Gives Principal Tools For Turnaround
Federal Aid Fuels Multi-Tiered Instruction
Additional Entrants Join Presidential Race
High Court Rules in Online Threat, Religious Rights Cases
A Movement Gains Momentum
What Teachers Are Saying
Parents Have a Civil Right To Question Testing’s Goal
Parents See Testing’s ‘Distorting Impact’
What Are the Policy Implications of the Opt-Out Movement?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
An Early Opt-Out

Education Week - June 10, 2015