DFER Illuminates Hidden Dangers of Opting Out

April 20, 2015


As both a public school teacher and a public school parent I am well versed with the arguments against the experimental Common Core State Standards and all that comes with it. I know of the Manhattan-Project-like secrecy in which the standards were created and how it was funded almost entirely by the Gates Foundation. I know of the mad rush in which it was implemented, the coercive methods employed by the Obama administration to insure its “adoption” by almost the entire nation, the developmentally inappropriate demands it makes on children, and above all the unprecedented amounts of super high stakes testing with which it is inexorably bound. I am aware too that the test scores from Common Core aligned tests form the largest component for evaluating teachers, schools, and entire districts. In short, I know that in a remarkably short period of time and with almost no parental or teacher input, the Common Core and the standardized tests that have been aligned to it have become nothing less than the central nervous system of the American public school system.
For these reasons and more I am an unapologetic advocate for parents allowing their children to opt out of such tests, as they did in ever increasing numbers last week and as did my own child.
That said, there are times, I feel, when matters of education, solidarity and self respect need be sublimated by people of good faith and integrity to larger and more pressing concerns of the commonwealth. That is to say, there are times when we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
I speak specifically of the potentially negative effects that opting out might have on the value of real estate and property in Scarsdale and other sections of Westchester.

Part of the danger in involvement with movements such as the battle to save public education is that a certain myopia can creep in so insidiously that one may not even begin to notice it. Accordingly, I will admit that in several years of arguing and advocating against corporate education reform in all its forms, not once did it dawn on me to consider how opting out might lower real estate values in Scarsdale. Shamefully, perhaps due to the same movement- created myopia, I cannot recall a single colleague mentioning it either. Nor has the problem appeared in any of the mainstream media, possibly due to pressure from teacher unions.
Honestly, I might well have remained oblivious to the Scarsdale property factor were it not brought to my attention by Nicole Brisbane, director of the New York State branch of Democrats For Education Reform in an article in USA Today reporting on the Opt Out phenomenon.

“Yet collecting educational data is important for the future of education and can help define the character of a town, said Nicole Brisbane, state director at Democrats For Education Reform.
“Schools are one of the biggest differentiators of value in the suburbs,” she said. “How valuable will a house be in Scarsdale when it isn’t clear that Scarsdale schools are doing any better than the rest of Westchester or even the state? Opting out of tests only robs parents of that crucial data.”
Insight into this “robbery” may not be enough for me to insist my child sit for the remainder of the tests that will be administered this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but when I ponder how my actions may affect property values and homeowners of Scarsdale and even the rest of Westchester County, it does give a certain illuminating pause. And for that, I can only give thanks to the good people at Democrats For Education Reform who remind me that, in the end, we’re all Americans and we’re all in this together.

11 Responses to “DFER Illuminates Hidden Dangers of Opting Out”

  1. Nikolett Says:

    Hello! My name is Nikolett Jakab and I’m a junior at International High School at Lafayette. There are many issues concerning the U.S. today and I firmly believe that many of these issues wouldn’t exist if our students would receive a meaningful education. However, standardized testing has become a very big issue that widens the achievement gap between people who have the necessary resources and education for test prep and those who don’t. Those who don’t have those resources receive an education that doesn’t prepare them for the future or spark them intellectually. Standardized tests like the Regents and the SAT are worthless if they fail to set reachable standards across the country. No matter how many changes are made to these tests, they won’t change the statistics because they fail to resolve to original issue that causes those statistics to exist in the first place. Despite knowing that these standardized tests are useless in terms of measuring someone’s potentials and abilities, there is a great emphasis put on them both in high school and in college decisions. I want things to change for the better, I want my peers and I to receive a valuable and rich education where standardized tests don’t make or break teachers’ and students’ futures but are instead used to improve on student and school performance.

    In hopes of showing my support for blogs like yours as well as to raise awareness to the issue, I’ve written an open letter to Merryl Tisch and David Coleman regarding the Regents and SAT requirements. By posting my open letter to blogs where people come together sharing a similar fact-based opinion around the issue, I hope my letter will reach and motivate people to take action. I think the power to transform our current education is in the hands of those who speak up and until I’m not in a position to directly change education, this letter serves as a call for anyone who feels ready to speak up next.

    To Whom It May Concern,

    For a nation to be strong, its people need to feel empowered. There are times, as there always were throughout history, when we needed to live up to our nation’s expectations. This time however, it is time for our nation to live up to our expectations.

    In order for the people to feel empowered, the first step is through education. For many years now with the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, that became a big issue specifically because of the increased use and significance put on standardized testing. Now tests are not used to help students and educators see what needs to be worked on but is instead used to see how much funding a school can receive, how good or bad the teachers are at that school, and make or break a student’s future and a teacher’s career.

    Students are not taught for life-long learning anymore but how to pass one test after another. These tests many times lack individual qualities important in a person such as creativity, reliability, persistence, passion, curiosity, emotional intelligence, or just what kind of person the student is in general. The teacher evaluations don’t show how innovative and helpful a teacher is in the classroom and how supportive he or she is toward the students. The test score does not show how many hours the
    student may have spent with that particular teacher, leaving the classroom inspired. It does not show the dedication of those who work with English Language Learners or students who struggle with disabilities or in areas ruled by poverty. With the very same formula teachers are evaluated with, a person who teaches nothing in a classroom but has students who study for the tests at home can still receive a shining evaluation if the students scored high through their own work.

    Although President Obama is a Democrat and former president George Bush is a Republican, there is one thing in common – that their approach in trying to close the achievement gap and make the U.S.A.’s education a globally competitive system has failed. The flaw lies in that the new, forced approach on schools, educators, parents and most importantly students toward standardized tests is corrupt and does not benefit the target it originally tried to reach out to.

    The achievement gap on National Assessment of Educational Progress did not see a decrease since the 1990’s, despite the
    promise that standardized testing will help to resolve the issue. Students of color significantly lag behind in all core subjects than whites. This is not because a certain race or ethnicity is smarter than the other but because our education system failed to fully end segregation. We already know that many people of color lack the resources that can get them to score higher on standardized tests, but there’s been nothing done to change that! Instead, there are more tests given to them, which is the same as trying to cure someone out of flu simply by measuring his temperature.

    The only reasonable explanation for this is that although the tests have been changed, they did not change what caused them to segregate between minority groups and whites in the first place. For example, the Common Core Standards promised that students will reach 100% proficiency rate in Math and English within only a few years. The test over the years failed to increase proficiency levels, yet spreading Common Core Standards in all the states are still on the political agenda. If it doesn’t help our
    students, then who does it help to? Why to keep adapting and reinforcing a standard that is not working? How could we solve any kind of problem if we keep repeating the same thing that failed every single time? Behind the starting of the Common Core lays David Coleman who convinced Bill Gates in 2008 to support the Common Core State Standards with over $200 million. Now, this very same person is the head of the College Board that is responsible for the SAT that can make or break hundreds of students’ college decision. With Coleman in power, I predict the revised SAT for the class of 2016 will be just as useless in closing the achievement gap as the Common Core Standards.

    The SAT for instance was specifically created from the initial IQ tests written by a French psychologist named Alfred Binet.
    During World War I, Lewis Terman and Robert Yerkes in the US used these IQ tests to segregate blacks from whites as well as to try to prove that intelligence is strongly tied to race. Carl Brigham worked with Yerkes to establish other IQ test for the same purpose and with a few adjustment, they named it the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Every single year, hundreds of students take this test and are sorted by their scores but the history of the test has never been taught in school curriculum. It has never been open to the public for questioning but it is now the time to change that.

    Moreover, the acts also failed to comply to their other promise, which was to make the U.S.A.’s education a globally competitive
    system. Since the introduction of the No Child Left Behind for 15 years now, America compared to other countries in Math from place 18th fell down to 31st. This is a significantly large fail that shows not that the children of America are not competent but that their schools don’t know how to work with diamonds in the rough. On the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) that 15-year-old US and other 15-year-old students from 65 other countries participate, American students failed to score higher in any of the subject areas starting from 2000 and has a higher percentage of students performing at the lower levels of PISA’s proficiency scale in math than the OECD average as well as a smaller percentage of students performing at the highest level.

    The senseless test preparations take away the time from students to actually learn and love to learn. Students don’t want to know more than what is tested, but when these standardized tests fail to test what matters, then aren’t we just wasting time? We are running in a devil’s circle but there is one thing to remember – we have the right to protest against these measures. We have the right to allow students not to take the tests if we rightfully believe it does not live up to its promise. Standardized testing does not equal to merit, potential, value, intelligence, and using it to judge these characteristics of someone is wrong.

    Here lies many other issues that the new approach caused yet I did not have a chance to mention, such as how it personally impacts students both emotionally and physically, that it only benefits funders, tutors, and test prep tool companies, namely Pearson, that problems in some of the tests are nonsense at times, or how it leads to cheating. Yet I firmly believe that despite not touching on these topics, all that was said above should be more than enough to question our present educational system.

    Having critical thinking skills is not bubbling in the right answer choice but being able to see what’s wrong with the education students receive now and put an end to it.

    Nikolett Jakab

  2. Andrew Evans Says:

    In that case, the realtors could all get together and give kids who get above a certain score a big cash prize. Right?

  3. Brendan Says:

    Nice Satirical piece

  4. rastamick Says:

    What next? Are the tax break Yachts even safe now? Can Polo ponies be devalued along with everything else? We’ll need to start putting the help through a metal detector at quitting time if this continues.

  5. Michael Fiorillo Says:

    Well, it’s good to see DFER, for probably the first and last time, be honest about something: for, while they pay lip service to the importance of kids, what matters most to them and their funders are asset values.

    Smash, grab, and leave no assets behind!

    • patrickwalsh Says:

      Oh yeah. Unintentionally honest, to be sure. Something tells me there was trouble in DFER paradise when USA Today released that quote.

      • Michael Fiorillo Says:

        Indeed, in a sign of increasing desperation on the so-called reformers part, they play the real estate values card.

        It’s truly impossible to overstate how grotesque these people are.

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