Union-organized 'opt out' campaign against Common Core exams protects teachers, not students

Editorial by the New York Daily News Editorial Board

04/15/15

To hear teachers unions and fringe parents tell it, New York’s public school children face rough treatment on the order of, say, waterboarding with the start Tuesday of annual standardized tests.

The silliness of portraying children who answer English and math questions as victims of near-child abuse is exceeded only by the cynicism of the unions’ anti-testing propaganda campaign.

Because the attacks on testing are orchestrated to protect teachers, not students.

New York State United Teachers has launched an all-out drive to persuade moms and dads to boycott standardized exams. Last year, the parents of fewer than 2,000 city children and roughly 60,000 statewide “opted out” of tests.

Now, NYSUT wants to boost those numbers because student achievement on the exams will be key to measuring teacher performance under the toughened evaluation system enacted by Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature.

Widespread boycotts would undermine the credibility of teacher ratings, reducing the risk that the worst instructors could be fired. Kids would get worse than nothing out of the deal.

Assessing students is the only true way to know whether schools — on which taxpayers spend $26 billion annually in New York City alone — are working. Avoid testing and you’ll find out whether Johnnie or Jane can figure out change for a $20 bill only after it’s too late.

Standardized tests are the sole apples-to-apples tool school leaders can use to determine whether their teachers are superstars or duds.

They’re the only way to know whether 1.1 million kids in city public schools, including many hundreds of thousands who are in veritable educational wastelands, are really learning.

New York introduced so-called Common Core standards and exams in 2013. Properly, they are tougher than previous tests:

The old exams rated more than half the kids proficient — even though little more than a fifth were actually being prepared for college and careers. Shredding that lie, the new tests rated just over a third of kids citywide as passing math, and fewer than a third as passing English.

Among parents, the opt-out movement is centered in high-income school districts across the state — where parents last year were 10 times more likely to pull their kids than in low-income districts. Meanwhile, a successful push would most hurt the low-income and minority kids who are trapped in chronically failing public schools.

The teachers unions are beyond shame.

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