Blog: Latino Ed Beat

#OptOutSoWhite? More Latino, Black Families Joining Movement

Source: Flickr/ via Benjamin Chun (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s spring, which means it’s also testing season for schools across the country and time for the annual arguments for and against opting kids out of the end-of-year assessments.

The opt-out movement, which gained considerable traction last year, has been criticized as a “white soccer mom” resistance or an issue of the affluent white class. There’s even a hashtag: #OptOutSoWhite.

Critics of the opt-out movement — including prominent Latino advocacy groups – have maintained that students who aren’t tested can’t be counted, and standardized tests scores are a way to keep schools accountable for the education of economically disadvantaged students and students of color. As one activist recently put it for EducationPost, “Year after year, standardized test results have exposed glaring racial biases in our education system…. Many parents are being told to boycott these tests when really we should be looking more closely at the results.”

But the opt-out movement is gaining popularity among Latino and black families, too. In a recent blog post for The Washington Post, former award-winning New York City principal Carol Burris writes that many parents of color are “no longer willing to buy the spin that taking Common Core tests will improve their children’s life chances.”

According to Burris, 50 percent of students at a predominantly black and Latino middle school – where 81 percent of the students are low-income – in Nassau County, New York were opted out of the Common-Core aligned tests this year. That number is up from 2 percent last year. At another school in the Bronx, she writes, 25 percent of students at a middle school that’s 99 percent black or Latino and 84 percent economically disadvantaged opted out — up from 5 percent last year.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, last year, several schools with Latino student populations over 90 percent organized mass walkouts, protesting the PARCC assessments with a message: “We are not a test score.” Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post also reported then that the Newark Student Union — a student-led organization of mostly minority students — also opposed the new Common Core-aligned tests.

Kimberly Hefling of Politico reports that at a recent United Opt Out National event, an African-American mother from Philadelphia said the movement can’t be successful without the involvement of urban parents, who are “really getting trapped” by the burden of test policies and who “need to know what their rights are.”

Opt-out organizers say this outreach effort is really about helping all parents demand more for their children. Hefling writes that the organizer’s argument is “that particularly in low-income neighborhoods, scarce resources and time are eaten up by repeatedly testing children instead of supports such as nurses, counselors and reading assistance.”

The issue of time — and, more specifically, how much time students spend testing — is one even President Obama feels strongly about. In October, the president called for schools to significantly scale back testing time and requested that Congress take action.