Typical anti-testing activist: Educated, white, married, politically liberal parent

A school bus passes a sign encouraging New York parents to refuse state tests (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

In the last few years, there’s been a rise in parents pulling their children out of high-stakes exams at school.

While opting out occurs across the country, the northeast appears to be ground zero for the movement. For example, the opt out rate last year in California for state language arts and math tests was 3 percent. It was more than 20 percent in New York.

The movement is fledgling in Georgia where nearly 4,300 exams were not taken by Georgia students last year. This year, the AJC found a few instances of students opting out, including 60 kids in Gwinnett, 145 in Fulton and 24 in DeKalb.

Who are the parents making this choice? Researchers from Teachers College of Columbia University sought to find out by recruiting respondents online, through links on the webpages and social media channels of opt out groups. They asked them to take a lengthy survey. The national sample consisted of a 1,641 respondents from 47 states. (If you go here, you can find the actual survey starting on Page 60.)

The research shows former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan got at least one thing right when he described the anti-testing and Common Core movement as “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

According to the Columbia report: “The typical opt out activist is a highly educated, white, married, politically liberal parent whose children attend public school and whose household median income is well above the national average.”

Among the other findings of the survey and analysis:

•The opt out movement includes more than just parents who have opted their children out.  It also includes parents whose children are in public school but did not opt out; parents whose children are homeschooled and/or in private school; and individuals without children who are supporting the movement. About four‐fifths of the respondents (81.5 percent) were parents or guardians of school‐aged children. The vast majority of them (92.9 percent) indicated that their children attended public schools. Approximately three‐quarters of respondents who are parents or guardians of school‐aged children (74.5 percent) have opted their children out of testing. Nine out of ten (92.1 percent) respondents who are parents or guardians of school‐aged children said they are likely to opt out in the future.

•Parents refuse standardized tests even in states where opting out is not permitted or discouraged by policy makers. The share of parents who opted out is lowest in states where opt out is prohibited (73.2 percent) and highest in states where refusal and opt out are permitted with constraints (85.7 percent). We find no significant differences in opting out between respondents residing in states where opt out is permitted and other respondents.

•The movement brings together Democrats (46.1 percent), Republicans (15.1 percent), Independents (33.3 percent), and supporters of other parties (5.5 percent).

•Most participants have come to the opt out movement during the past 3‐4 years, with almost half (48.9 percent) joining during the past two years. Social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – play a key role in mobilizing participants, as do social networks. Compared to their peers in other parts of the country, respondents in the South have heard about the movement most recently.

•The opt out movement is about more than just opposition to high‐stakes testing. Respondents gave many reasons as to why they participate. In particular, respondents feel that judging teacher performance by students’ standardized test scores is unfair (36.9 percent). They also are protesting the narrowing of the curriculum, corporatization/privatization of education, and the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

•Motivations vary, depending on whether the respondent was a teacher or not. Teachers (45.0 percent) say that they are opposed to tying teacher evaluation to student performance on standardized tests while non‐teachers were more likely to mention opposition to ‘teaching to the test’ and to the Common Core.

•Opt out activists are concerned with current educational reforms and efforts to improve public schools. Compared to the general public, they are more critical of the use of different types of testing in education, especially high‐stake tests. Also, opt out activists view increasing school funds as important idea for improving schools. While the general public rank this idea in the 4th place (out of five), opt out activists rank this idea in the 2nd place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

39 comments
ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

I'd like to revisit SB 364, "The Law of Unintended Consequences."

The law is supposed to reduce the number of tests our students have to take, but since the GaDOE is no longer calculating student growth for HS science and social studies EOCs, the students in our district now have to take pre- and post- SLOs in addition to EOCs.  

That's right, 3 tests instead of 1!  


And now, instead of 50% of our evaluations being based on "student growth," 30% will be based on "student growth," while 20% is based on "professional growth."


How will they know we've grown professionally?  Why, by whether or not our students improve - i.e., student growth!!



Cindy Suto
Cindy Suto

Thank you for the information on the Columbia University Opt Out Movement Study and for one paragraph about the Opt Out  Movement in Georgia.  I think it would be advantageous to repeat the study in Georgia so we can have relevant Georgia data for analysis and prepare a Georgia research report. I would like to help conduct the study with you as I have market research experience. 

You may describe the movement as fledgling and that may be accurate considering the public school population of Georgia but I think it is growing thanks in part to Opt Out Georgia on Facebook.  People with the Opt Out Movement submitted respectable legislation last year as GA Senate Bill 355 which was passed over in preference for GA Senate Bill 364.  That was a major setback for reducing testing in Georgia Public Schools.  The test reduction in SB 364 was negligible and it added testing for younger grades.  

For a parent it is difficult to offer children a healthy public school education with the excessive amount of standardized testing and test prep currently being administered.  Our kids deserve to go to school to learn and not be constantly assessed.  Whatever happened to the idea of a carefree childhood?  The kids are missing out on traditional classroom learning time by preparing for pretests, post tests, benmark tests, MAP tests, Georgia Milestones tests, SLO’s, IB and AP tests, SATs and ACTs, and End of Course tests, etc.  At a certain point it becomes comical.  More seriously, I cannot imagine the stress that is caused from the constant barrage of testing for our children.  

At this point, the only option in Georgia Public Schools for students appears to be to refuse the tests and test preparations.  Refusing the testing is not ideal in that children still miss out on learning time.  Thankfully, Opt Out Georgia on Facebook has been assisting parents who need help in refusing the standardized tests.  Additionally, I hope that Opt Out Georgia submits another Senate Bill in 2017 to dramatically reduce testing so we can begin to reverse the standardized testing trend.

Cindy Suto
Cindy Suto

Actually, a portion of SB 355 was included in SB 364.

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@Cindy Suto It's too bad they left out the part of SB 355 that said the tests would have to be proven reliable and valid before they could be used.

slynk
slynk

 I am far for liberal politically but I have been following the disaster that is common core for years and am a firm believer in the opt out movement.  For those of us who cant afford a private school or are able to have one parent at home to home school, having our kids opt out and the ballots locally and nationally are our only means of recourse.  Especially since John King is now threatening school districts who don't meet 95% participation by pulling funding. And those that think the opt out movement is being pushed  by teachers unions, you need to do some more research.  Just do a little digging into common core and the testing that comes with it.  Look at who is behind it, who bankrolled it and how they profit, and how much data is collected on our kids without the parents permission. 

speccie
speccie

You can bet that Opt Out and its "movement" are covertly bankrolled by the teachers unions. Along with the hard luck stories written up to appear here and elsewhere.

But know any parents taking it seriously?

jezel
jezel

@speccie I see that you have not done your homework.

jerryeads
jerryeads

 I am amazed that so many people are suckered into thinking the results of state testing bear any resemblance to what kids know and can do. There's a reason this ed. measurement/statistics Ph.D., once having served as the head of state testing in Virginia, swore in the 90's that I would never, ever again take a job that did so much injustice to students, parents, teachers and schools. 

Teachers worth their salt don't decry accountability. All they ask for is COMPETENT accountability, and there is nothing further from such than most states' testing programs. Remember, state tests have one thing in common with the space program: low bid.While I fervently wish EVERYONE would have their kids opt out of suffering this useless junk, from an activist standpoint I'd love it if the well-to-do parents whose kids are generally the best testers would bail from state testing. Reported pass rates would plummet.I remain all for GOOD assessment. Good teachers are measuring their students' performance dozens if not hundreds of times a day, through watching behavior, expressions, verbal comments as well as answers and, of course, exams. There are also useful external diagnostic testing tools to help identify learning issues. Put in proper perspective, I'd even be okay with (decent) statewide testing to keep a read on performance. But as the old adage goes, "Weighing a pig doesn't make it bigger." The DATA show that all this testing we started all the way back in the 1970's hasn't helped kids get better one iota. What it (not to mention lousy school management and scripted curricula) has done is convince people not to become teachers - and lo and behold, it sure looks like we're headed for one major teacher shortage. The best leave first. Because they can.

Cindy Suto
Cindy Suto

@jerryeads Thank you for your comment Jerry.  We need help in reversing this trend of increasing testing for all grades, throughout the entire school year and in summer school for repeat testing, from people like you that have the state testing expertise.   Please help us reverse this outrageous trend of maintaining and increasing standardized testing in our Georgia Public Schools.  

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@jerryeads The state tests aren't the greatest, but I prefer them to SLOs.  At least the state tests have gone through some semblance of field testing....we have no idea whether or not SLOs are reliable or valid.

Jennifer Schmidt
Jennifer Schmidt

Wow Maureen. Nice click bait. As a member of Opt Out Georgia, and a part of a team that helped 1000s exercise their parental right all across the state of Georgia I can say you are factually WRONG. Next!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I have no idea how to correctly imbed and attribute Gary Larson's drawing of a sheep's rebellion, but please google "Wait!  Wait! Listen to me!  We don't HAVE to be just sheep!




daks
daks

@MaryElizabethSings 

“Marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety even under medical supervision.”  

Chuck Rosenberg, DEA Acting Administrator 

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Your comment that the movement is fledgling in GA mystifies me. I know you are aware of Opt Out Georgia, which has thousands of parents from across the state as members. Many of them refused the Georgia Milestones last spring, from counties all over Georgia. Many are refusing other testing as well, such as SLOs, MAP, district assessments, STAR, etc. We have members across the political/racial/economic spectra. We are educating people left and right about why and how to refuse them. Considering that closing schools through Deal's Opportunity School District is the end goal for the poorly designed Milestones, the lowest income families will be the ones most affected by this. GA is one of the states that does not "allow" opt outs. So instead, we refuse. All parents have the right to refuse these tests. Of course, once they are in high school, GMAS is 20% of the grade, so you wouldn't choose that. This is a much larger movement in Georgia than your article suggests.

trifecta_
trifecta_

I doubt many parents are duped by the anti-testing hype teachers' unions (and therefore this blog) keep disseminating.

Accountability is here to stay.

trifecta_
trifecta_

@Falcaints @trifecta_ 

Even within demographic groups there are differences in educational achievement. Some teachers are clearly better than others at their profession -- just as in every other field.

Parents and taxpayers have a legitimate interest in identifying excellence.

Falcaints
Falcaints

@trifecta_ @Falcaints and testng is the best way to identify excellence?  I would suggest a longitudinal study to see the effects the teacher had upon that student after they left school.

Falcaints
Falcaints

@trifecta_ Why do you assume that teachers are "anti-testing"?  Many of us are not.  What we don't think is equitable is the placing of blame solely on the teacher for students who don't perform well.  I can't make students care, I can't make them study, I am not responsible for them being well treated or fed.  The transference of "raising" children from the parents to the teachers is a big part of the poor performance problem.

jezel
jezel

Those who fail to see the implications of  the school reform movement are either....uneducated...pseudo intellectuals...naive... or have a monetary interest in the reform.

CSpinks
CSpinks

What is the logical implication of a con-test advocate's being educated, white, married and politically liberal?


Inasmuch as this pro-reasonable-test advocate fits in all four aforementioned categories, how anomalous am I? Better yet, how erroneous am I? 

jezel
jezel

@CSpinks The logical implication is....privatizing education is a scam.

Astropig
Astropig

The opt out movement is a con.It's pushed by,funded and coordinated by teachers unions.In states where there are honest to goodness unions,it's strong and well organized.In states where formal teachers unions are prohibited,it's weak and sporadic (Georgia and other southern states inclusive). The whole idea here is to thwart accountability by skewing the testing results.


There was a good article on this in U.S. News & World Report not long ago-


http://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/2015/04/07/whats-next-for-the-opt-out-of-common-core-movement-school-choice


Look, there may be too many tests for everyone's liking.No argument there.But to encourage parents and kids to only follow school policies that they agree with is a dangerous road to start traveling.If there are too many tests,then the proper place to change things is at the political level,by electing legislators that will cut back on the testing regime-not by,what is in effect,mob rule.

PJ25
PJ25

@jezel @Astropig How about the one in New York, which is mentioned in the article, assuming you actually read the article. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig The whole idea here is to thwart accountability by skewing the testing results.


Here is where I disagree with you:  I believe much of the opt-out is a direct backlash to legislators and others who don't know diddly about testing, student development, or education in general, yet who are empowered require schools to subject children to hours and hours of testing, in addition to the traditional tests we took in school (chapter tests, multiplication tests, etc.)  These inappropriately conceived, constructed, and administered tests, and their inappropriate use, are the basis of the movement.  People are only willing to be sheep for so long!

jezel
jezel

@Astropig Teacher unions....what state are you talking about ?

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig


" I believe much of the opt-out is a direct backlash to legislators and others who don't know diddly about testing, student development, or education in general, ..."


Fine. Then change the legislature or legislators.Nobody is stopping that.But the left is creating their own little monster here that will grow and metastasize into something that they may not like later on down the road.

Astropig
Astropig

@jezel @Astropig @Wascatlady



"How is this a liberal or conservative issue ?"


Did you read the title above? Did you read anything connected with this discussion?

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@trifecta_ @jezel


When you denigrate the unions and their supposed political slush funds you also have to acknowledge that the private companies who benefit by the millions, if not billions, are very active in their lobbying and providing very large donations to the politicians who will do their bidding. 

daks
daks

@sneakpeakintoeducation 

... Unions' supposed political slush funds??

Google NEA and contributions for a tip-of-the-iceberg view of one union's attempts to influence elections.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@daks @sneakpeakintoeducation


Again, even if the unions have a slush fund, so does the super-pacs, corporations and large donors. Take all the money out of politics. At least the union has a track record of doing good for the general workforce. For unions you can thank:


1. the 5 day work week

2. Weekends off

3. Paid vacation 

4. Sick leave

5. End to child labor

6. safe work environment for the workers

7. helped in the fight to secure women's voting rights


These are just a few to begin with.