Opinion: State Union Rankings Show Strength of Labor Depends on Size of Government

Betheny Gross — The Key to Effective Personalized Learning: Rigorous Content, Standards, and Experiences

Chavous & Duplessis: Undoing ‘Separate but Equal,’ Six Decades After Brown v. Board of Education

Williams: The D.C. Enrollment Scandal Shows How Critical It Is to Guard Against Parent Privilege

Plucker: Gifted Education, Race & Poverty — How Do We Join Forces to Close America’s ‘Excellence Gap’?

Tucker Haynes: Proof That Charters Offer Excellence to All Children Goes Beyond U.S. News’s Top 10 Ranking

Avossa & Chang: As Immigrant School Leaders, We Know That No Immigrant Student Should Have to Live in Fear

Bradford — The Politics & Partisanship of America’s Education Reform Debate: A Growing Blue-Red Divide

Bradford — The Politics & Partisanship of America’s Education Reform Debate: Time for a Suburban Strategy?

Miles & Wiener: In Washington, D.C., a Road Map for Reinventing Professional Development in Schools

Analysis: From ‘Incarceration Pay’ to ‘Rule of 75,’ Surprising Contract Benefits for Teachers Union Staffers

DeGrow: New Detroit Supe Wants to Compete With Charter Schools. How He Can Start Raising the Bar

Lake: Why Personalized Learning Will Ultimately Live or Die on Its Ability to Manage Change

Bradford — The Politics & Partisanship of the Education Reform Debate: Why Being ‘Right’ Isn’t Enough

Rotherham: Why Won’t Betsy DeVos Answer Hard Questions?

Williams: When Students Own Their Academic Results, They Transform Their Schools

Fiddler: The Cost of Textbooks Is a Huge Obstacle for Poor Students. Here’s a Solution

Jeb Bush: What the Media Is Getting Wrong About Florida’s Push to Help Students With Disabilities

Bankert: If Rahm Emanuel’s Graduation Plan Is to Succeed, Colleges Must Lower Barriers for Poor, Minority Students

Student Voice: My Mother Is Undocumented. My Father Was Deported. I Am the Resistance

Parent’s Perspective: Why My Fifth-Grade Daughter Opted Into This Year’s State Tests

April 30, 2017

Talking Points

NY parent explains why the #OptOut movement isn't cool – it just hurts kids in high-needs areas

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Harlem, N.Y.
I think we all remember what it was like to be in school and wanting to be with the “cool kids.” It used to be that meant wearing the latest sneakers or a cool pair of jeans, but in wealthy suburban school districts over the past couple of years, the latest trend is keeping your children home during annual school testing. The problem is that, unlike a pair of new Air Jordans, this so-called opt-out movement will end up hurting kids living in high-need areas. That’s because opting out of state tests scales back accountability and makes it harder to spotlight failing schools. The movement reached a fever pitch in New York a couple of years ago, but I’m happy to report that the tide is turning, and it’s becoming “cool” again to say yes to the state tests.
When my daughter took the state reading exam a few weeks ago, she joined hundreds of thousands of students in grades 3 through 8 who participated in the test. In fact, in 74 percent of the 206 New York districts, opt-out rates have decreased or remained flat compared with last year. That’s no surprise in my neighborhood, because parents living in Harlem depend on these assessments to spotlight schools that are failing and to hold the system accountable.
Opting out is a disaster for kids who have been trapped in a separate and unequal school system for way too long. Parents in communities like Harlem need a way to ensure that schools are making progress from year to year. We need a way to identify gaps in learning for our kids, to measure the performance of our schools, and to hold the system accountable when it falls short. Parents understand that high standards are critical to student achievement, and we can’t go back to letting millions of kids fall through the cracks and drift along with low expectations.
My daughter attends P.S. 36, a Harlem elementary school where just 18 percent of students passed the state math test last year. That meant my child had a one in six chance to be prepared for the next grade and an even lower chance she’d be ready for college.
I am not alone. For the most part, families in New York City understand what’s at stake. That’s why 98 percent have opted into state tests over the past two years — because we don’t have the luxury of opting out. Outside the city, the numbers of opt-outers have not been growing. It’s my hope that the opt-out trend is rightly fading away.
There is so much at stake, which is why we need to continue to measure our children’s performance. When people in New York and nationally call for cutting down or even eliminating accountability, it lets the system off the hook.
I’m saying “yes to the test” to fight against a separate and unequal education. I’m saying “yes to the test” because I want a better future for my daughter. I urge 100 percent of parents in New York state to do the same and say “yes to the test.”
Damian Gaillard is the parent of a fifth-grader who attends public school in Harlem, N.Y.