Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Prominent Latino Civil Rights Groups Oppose Test Opt-Out Movement

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

Earlier this year, 12 civil and human rights groups signed a petition opposing the test opt-out movement gaining traction across the United States. Two of the 12 were prominent Latino advocacy organizations: National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

In an article for The Texas Observer this week, Patrick Michels writes about the controversy: 

The opt-out movement has grown even faster outside the state, particularly in hotbeds of resistance to the national Common Core standards. Around 200,000 children opted out this year in New York. The growing movement’s most visible members — in the press and in positions of leadership — have been mostly white, middle- and upper-class parents; the opt-out trend has been criticized for sidelining the voices of poor black and Latino parents.

He goes on to address the difference in opinion on this issue between some of the country’s most prominent civil rights groups, including rifts between chapters of the same organizations.

In a June report for the Brookings Institution, Senior Fellow Matthew Chingos takes a closer look at who is opting out of standardized tests. His analysis confirms that districts serving higher numbers of economically disadvantaged students — measured by free and reduced lunch data — have lower opt-out rates. “A one standard deviation increase in the share of students eligible for free/reduced lunch is associated with an 11-percentage-point decrease in the opt-out rate,” he writes.

This is significant, given Michels’ mention of criticism for the opt-out movement’s disconnect with low-income Latino parents and the fact that 32 percent of Latino children in the United States live in poverty. 

In a recent poll of California voters by the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times, the majority of registered Latino voters surveyed said they were in favor of standardized tests. 

I blogged in April that socioeconomic status contributed to respondents’ viewpoints on standardized testing and public schools, according to the team behind the poll. For example, a higher percentage of Latino voters who did not attend college were in favor of the exams than Latinos who had been college educated.

The organizations that signed the petition — which also includes The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The American Association of University Women, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates Inc., Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, NAACP, the National Disability Rights Network, the National Urban League and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center — cited the need for data from the standardized tests as the reason for their opposition to those who would advocate for students not participating in the exams.

“Standardized tests, as ‘high stakes tests,’ have been misused over time to deny opportunity and undermine the educational purpose of schools, actions we have never supported and will never condone. 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.”

Of course, not every Latino supports the views of these organizations, and in some cases, Latinos and other minorities have been at the forefront of opt-out demonstrations

In June, several other organizations — including the Hispanic Justice Coalition, National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project, and The Black & Latino Policy Institute – signed a letter in support for opting children out of standardized tests, arguing “high-stakes standardized tests, rather than reducing the opportunity gap, have been used to rank, sort, label, and punish Black and Latino students, and recent immigrants to this country.”