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Letters: No winners from 'opt out'

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

Finally someone at Newsday has asked the "opt-out" questions I've been wondering about ["Where opt-out reasoning goes wrong," Opinion, April 22].

We need some investigative reporting into, for example, how the teachers unions managed to get 80 percent to opt out in some districts, and only 3 percent in others. I say "how the teachers unions managed to" do it, because these kinds of wild differences strongly suggest something other than a broad groundswell of parental displeasure is at work. The results are not a normal statistical curve at all.

Art Mattson, Lynbrook

I will leave aside the thorny politics, which has pitted the New York State United Teachers union against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in a battle over the best practices in the evaluation of teachers and principals, and instead address the substance of the issue, namely: What is the argument against testing, and what merit is there in encouraging students to not participate?

The essential argument made by members of the opt-out movement is, "My child is more than a test score." That is simply a straw man; no one who is a proponent of the assessments suggests that the potential of any student is captured in this one, single metric. All that is being asserted is that these standardized tests in English and math are useful gauges of how the student is performing relative to his or her peers, and how much progress the individual student is making year over year.

Parents also have asserted that their children are stressed out. I would suggest that coping with anxiety in the face of a challenge is an important life lesson.

There is no major academic or professional milestone that can be achieved in our society without demonstrating satisfactory performance on a standardized test. One can argue that these exams are imperfect, but at least they provide some insight into basic competency.

Matthew Witten, Great Neck

Opting out of state testing was victory for no one. It's my understanding that Common Core came about as a way for students in any public school in the country be taught the same core curriculum -- a necessary goal in a mobile society and increasingly competitive global economy.

When Common Core was created, 44 states signed on and a new national core curriculum was created. It included testing to provide a measure for progress. From there it all broke down. The federal government attached extra funding to it. State governments attached teacher evaluations to it. Teachers in turn denigrated the tests, feeding on fears of parents who did not understand the new curriculum.

The results are that some states have dropped out, and parents are rebelling nationwide. If the federal government had said let's proceed slowly and train our present and future teachers first, maybe things would be better. Now that we have an unfocused mess, maybe all parties can step back and cool the rhetoric for the sake of our children.

Bruce Schoenberg, Smithtown

Please tell me, what exactly do people think all this "opting out" is going to achieve? Now that the teachers union has grabbed the bullhorn, it has manipulated parents across the state into believing that they are doing something positive by having their kids sit out state testing.

So thousands opted out. How will anyone now know if the changes in curriculum are good, bad or indifferent? How will anyone know what a student actually, really, truly understands? Adjustments can only be made if you know what and where they need to be made.

Lori Halop, Elmont