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How About Serving New York’s 900,000, Karen Magee?

How About Serving New York’s 900,000, Karen Magee?_5fbed326a6e68.jpeg
Accountability Jason Schweid Jeanette Deutermann Karen Magee Long Island Merryl H. Tisch New York State New York State United Teachers Opt-Out

How About Serving New York’s 900,000, Karen Magee?

How About Serving New York’s 900,000, Karen Magee?

Self-serving is the adjective that comes to mind when I reflect on comments made by Karen Magee, president of New York State United Teachers, in response to the potential impact that high opt-out rates may have on teacher evaluations.

Sure, 200,000 students opted out and though they are predominantly white and middle class,they are also disproportionately students who received scores in the two lowest performance levels on similar exams in prior years. Watching adults who claim to care about educating children celebrate non-proficient students opting out of an annual measure is totally beyond the pale for me as a mother and former teacher.

They are literally putting kids at risk in order to ensure that their members—adult members—can escape any workplace accountability and that is the height of unprofessionalism.

Magee was right out of the gate with this:

It would be a huge mistake to read anything into these test results. Whether they’re up or down, they tell us virtually nothing meaningful about students or their teachers. Student test scores based on poorly written, developmentally inappropriate Pearson tests, in a year in which record numbers of parents repudiated the state’s standardized testing program by “opting out,” aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

Really? 900,000 students in New York came to school and took the required tests; to call their results meaningless or claim they tell us nothing is completely self-serving. According to Jason Schweid, a fellow at the Regents Research Fund, which advises the State Education Department on policy and testing, 900,000 taking the tests is “more students taking the New York state test than in many other states with no opt out at all.”

The opt-out rate does have potential to skew some numbers like overall state growth or growth of certain subgroups. That said, the value of knowing where the 900,000 students who took the test are in terms of achievement shouldn’t be underestimated because the information has great value. Furthermore, the simple ability for parents to see how their own child is performing on an objective measure is hugely important.

State union leaders like Magee and parent leaders of the opt-out movement knew—well in advance of their rallying cries for parents to refuse the tests—what the potential consequences would be. They knew it could compromise evaluation data, they knew it put federal dollars at risk and they knew that it would mean we knew far less about how our students are doing.  

“Statistically, if you take out enough, it has no merit or value whatsoever,” said Karen Magee.

Jeanette Deutermann, a central figure in Long Island’s test-refusal movement, said in a New York Times story.

The hope was to disrupt it to the point where it cannot be used… (where) there are not enough children taking the test to close a school, or not enough data to fire a teacher. 

Thankfully, New York Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch, sees things differently:

Without an annual testing program, the progress of our neediest students may be ignored or forgotten, leaving these students to fall further behind. This cannot happen.

For a union leader like Karen Magee to now cry foul and essentially ask for the results to be thrown out is not only self-serving, it flies in the face of accountability for teachers and for schools and it treats kids’ learning as the last priority. Her only motive is to protect her members from any accountability based on student outcomes.

I cry foul on that.

Erika Sanzi is a mother of three sons and taught in public schools in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island. She blogs at School Matters.

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