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Letters: Debating the opt-out movement

Children hold up signs during the first New

Children hold up signs during the first New York rally in "The Great American Opt Out" at Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station on Saturday, March 29, 2014. Credit: Ed Betz

Columnist Anne Michaud’s continued, and frankly baffling, criticisms of the opt-out movement reached a new low in her wildly inaccurate assertion that the opt-out movement protects white privilege [“The damage done by opt-outs,” Opinion, Sept. 15].

Parents who choose not to have their grade-school children take the annual state tests in math and English are not racists, do not oppose assessment, and certainly do not oppose high standards and good schools for all. The current tests are not purposeful or age appropriate, and they stand to do the most damage to vulnerable learners.

Parents who opt out oppose tests that are not wholly designed by teachers, but done with the input of corporations beholden to shareholders. Parents who opt out bemoan the loss of science, foreign language and social studies education, which are essential to educating the whole child and have been diminished in many districts.

It is also worth noting that the “highly educated, white, married” women that Michaud cites have for centuries given their voices to social justice movements that advocate for all Americans — from abolition to combating poverty to civil rights and meaningful education reform.

Claire Moore, Northport


Maybe all those “highly educated” parents who refuse the annual grade-school tests understand something columnist Anne Michaud doesn’t. We know the tests will do nothing to fix the achievement gap. We know U.S. and New York education policies are misguided and need to change. Refusing is the only way to make that happen.

The tests actually do more harm than good in minority districts. I fit the profile of refusers in the Columbia Teachers College survey, but my children attend school in a largely minority district. By every other measure, including performance on Advanced Placement and Regents exams, there is no achievement gap in my district. In fact, the College Board invited our administrators to share their educational strategies with schools around the country. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at our results on those ridiculous state assessments.

Michaud calls people like me selfish. But we want schools to teach science, social studies, art and music and not just English Language Arts and math assessment strategies. We need to stop spending money on tests and to spend it on real education.

Jeanne D’Esposito, Malverne

Editor’s note: The writer is a member of the Malverne school board.


What’s best for students very correctly remains the only true and measure regarding educational reform.

I would have very serious reservations about having any child take tests based on Common Core standards, which were recklessly imposed on teachers without sufficient time to digest or develop feasible curriculum or plans. This was abusive to teachers and students.

Yes, I would opt out.

Anne Michaud, however, is completely on target in advocating testing — if the tests were more fully developed — as a way to level the field between well-off and poor communities.

Testing is also an excellent antidote to the very disturbing administrative mania of replacing true reform with public relations myths. I served 45 years in public education, and I found that too many administrators painted a rosy picture instead of relentlessly implementing the most promising innovations, which means overcoming bumps and setbacks along the way.

Testing is the most truthful indicator.

Fred Barnett, Lake Grove

Editor’s note: The writer is a retired teacher.


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