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Opting out could be 'inconsquential'

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Third through eighth graders are scheduled to take the English Language Arts next week. Last year 60,000 students opted out across the state, refusing to take the Common Core standardized tests. WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley says the latest Brookings Institutionstudy finds opting out would most likely be "inconsequential."

"For teachers who see a lot their students opt out, it increases their risk of getting a bad score," said Matthew Chingos, Senior Fellow at Brookings. After hearing the leader of the New York State Untied Teachers Union (NYSUT) urge parents to have their children opt out, Chingos conducted some research. 

NYSUT President Karen Magee stated that they could sabotage the teacher evaluation system if large numbers of students opt out. But Chingos tells WBFO News it actually could damage teachers.

"In my data analysis, once you got to about 15 students in the classroom opting out, that's when you saw the big jump that a teacher would get a low rating," said Chingos. "Once there is very few students left to go into their score, it gets very noisy. So they (teachers) also might get lucky and get a high score, but the punishment for getting a low score is much worse than the reward for getting a high school in New York."

Credit Brookins Institute graph from opt out
Percent of Teachers Rated Ineffective, by Number of Students Opting Out Per Classroom.

Credit Brookins Institute graph from opt out
Distribution of Teacher Ratings, with and without 15 opt-outs.

"More and more parents realize that these tests don't achieve what the State Education Department claims," said Peter Stuhlmiller, President of the Kenmore Teachers Association.

WBFO asked the president of the Kenmore-Tonawanda teachers union for his opinion on opting out. Stuhlmiller represents more than 600 teachers.  

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Peter Stulmiller, President of Kenmore Teachers Association.

"These test are not transparent. These test don't provide any diagnostic information about what their kids are learning, about what their kids are able to do," said Stuhlmiller

Stulmiller said his union fully supports a parents right to decide to opt out.

Advocates supporting opt out are throwing out estimates of some 250,000 students might opt out ELA's and Math this school season. 

The New York Allies for Public Education has on-line advise for parents across the state. It has established a letter parents are encouraged to use to send to their child's school if they plan to opt out. There is also YouTube video message promoting opting out.