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Long Island parents, teachers parting company

Jeanette Deutermann, lead organizer of the LI Opt

Jeanette Deutermann, lead organizer of the LI Opt Out movement, at home in Bellmore on April 6. Credit: Johnny Milano

The union umbrella group New York State United Teachers objects to the use of student performance on state and federally mandated standardized tests to rate teacher performance.

Long Island parents in the opt-out movement — which grew from the fight against curriculum changes known as Common Core and new and tougher standardized tests for students in third through eighth grades — hate the tests, too. They object to the amount of testing, to the possibility students could be judged by the results, and fear that teachers judged by student scores would make classes test-prep factories.

Since opposition to the English and math tests and the teacher evaluations began blossoming in 2011, the two groups have worked together seamlessly. Now differing priorities are pulling them apart.

NYSUT is supporting a bill, likely to pass in this legislative session, that would make using the state tests in teacher evaluations optional and give districts latitude in which metrics to use to rate teachers. This could include other tests, like Regents exams, but is unlikely to include new exams, as critics of the bill have claimed. In this climate, it’s hard to imagine a district adding optional tests and rating teachers based on them. But activist parents who have driven the Long Island opt-out rate to about 50 percent aren’t going along with NYSUT because this bill wouldn’t reduce standardized testing, or ban evaluating students or teachers on the results.

NYSUT’s priority is protecting members from any evaluation system that would make it easier to identify and possibly fire underperforming teachers. The parents’ priority is protecting children from tests or test results because of a stressful experience. Together, they’ve stymied the movement to make sure New York’s children have effective teachers and succeed at rigorous coursework that will prepare students for careers and college.