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“We cannot fix what we cannot measure”–Civil Rights groups come out against opt-out movement

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A coalition of civil rights groups, including the NAACP and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights have released a statement condemning the various anti-testing efforts emerging in some states:

But the anti-testing efforts that appear to be growing in states across the nation, like in Colorado and New York, would sabotage important data and rob us of the right to know how our students are faring. When parents ‘opt out’ of tests—even when out of protest for legitimate concerns—they’re not only making a choice for their own child, they’re inadvertently making a choice to undermine efforts to improve schools for every child.

Until federal law insisted that our children be included in these assessments, schools would try to sweep disparities under the rug by sending our children home or to another room while other students took the test. Hiding the achievement gaps meant that schools would not have to allocate time, effort, and resources to close them. Our communities had to fight for this simple right to be counted and we are standing by it.

But we cannot fix what we cannot measure.  And abolishing the tests or sabotaging the validity of their results only makes it harder to identify and fix the deep-seated problems in our schools.

While states like New York and New Jersey have seen unfortunately high opt-out rates this year, most districts in New Hampshire have few to no instances of opt-outs.

Read the full statement released by the coalition here.


  1. Take a look at these charts. The Opt Out movement is growing. There is nothing you can do to stop this growth other than to tell parents not to act in the best interest of their children; that the welfare of someone else’s children matters more than theirs. Good luck with that message. Subordinating your own child’s welfare to an unknown benefit to others will be a tough sell.

  2. I’ll take it a step further, Doris. The original group of civil rights leaders & organizations that came out in support of high stakes testing was more than double the 12 who signed on to the recent statement. What happened to more than a dozen who didn’t sign this resolution? It’s irresponsible to ignore those groups and individuals and make it seem like this dozen who signed are fully representative when they clearly are not.

    That said, just because a group or individual signs a statement doesn’t mean that the statement is correct. More importantly, it doesn’t mean that those who signed on are well-qualified to comment or that they are properly informed about the implications of the statement. In this case, I would question the wisdom of those leaders/groups that stayed on the high-stakes testing wagon. It’s in trouble, and it’s about time that it was on a national basis. There have been very knowledgeable professionals questioning the efficacy of such tests for at least 3/4 of a century, going back to mathematician/physicist Banesh Hoffman (see THE TYRANNY OF TESTING: In this case, I believe these groups/leaders are deluded and sadly mistaken about high-stakes testing serving the needs of minority students. Quite the opposite appears to be the case.

  3. wgersen says:

    The opt out movement has been mis-characterized by the media as “union led” or as a reaction by middle class parents against the low get scores that the new “improved” tests yielded. From what I’ve read the driving force behind the opt out movement is pushback from parents who are fed up with the narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place in many public schools in their effort to increase test score and parent’s realization that the current standardized tests are not helpful to their children, their children’s teacher, or to public education.

    And sadly for civil rights leaders, we haven’t taken ANY steps in the past six decades to address the very measurable issues included in Brown v. Board of Ed… nor have states who lost lawsuits based on inequitable school funding (like NH) taken any steps to address the very measurable inequities that exist between affluent and poverty stricken schools. Politicians would rather administer tests that “prove” schools and teachers are failing than address the funding deficiencies that undercut the efforts of teachers who serve children raised in poverty.

    The bottom line: all of this standardized testing data distracts voters from realizing that we need to provide equitable funding to schools if we want to provide equitable opportunities for all children….

  4. […] In his latest article, Mr. Bill Duncan of the state Board of Education, argues that the opt-out movement is selfish and interferes with the state’s ability to improve public education. Essentially, he states that parents must subjugate their children’s welfare for the state’s interests. This is very revealing about Duncan’s views about parents and the role of the state in public education. […]

    • Bill Duncan says:

      The reaction to this post is interesting. I thought I was posting a kind of news squib the purpose of which was to say, basically, “Don’t forget in the debate about standardized testing that there is an equity issue here as well.” You’ll see in these 48 posts about testing no loyalty to standardized testing but a strong emphasis on looking for ways to move beyond the over-testing we do today.   

      But commenters from across the political spectrum want to pick a fight anyway – from “Subjecting students,” arguing that testing tramples parents’ rights in favor of the “state’s interests”  to “Punching down,” a mini-lecture on PACE, no less.

      Testing is the central education debate of our time.  It will take hard work from educators, policy makers and parents to overcome the failure of No Child Left Behind.  But while we look for assessment systems than enhance classroom work instead of interrupting and subverting learning, equity for all groups of students is still a legitimate part of the discussion.

      New Hampshire is in the forefront of that effort, which might be why the opting out has gained so little traction in the State.

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