Tips for Organizing at Your School

DO

  • Feel alone at your school? See if you can find one or two other families who share your opposition to the tests and support each other. Most schools start with only one or two students refusing the tests but that number can grow with a little patience and persistence.
  • Organize among the friendly first. Hold a small meeting for friends or acquaintances to learn more. (It can be in someone’s apartment, a bar, or coffee shop — no need for a big production!) Contact us if you need someone to speak: nycoptout@gmail.com.
  • Start talking about the issue on playgrounds or at pickup/dropoff. All school communities are different, so try to identify the main concerns with opt-out at your school. Don’t try to debate anyone; just listen and note their concerns. If you are later able to hold a testing forum at your school, these concerns will be import to identify and address.
  • Read our talking points. These are the things we hear over and over again from our opponents.
  • Figure out: What’s the best way to communicate with others at your school? Playground conversations? Do you have class liaisons you can go through? Parent email lists? Are your PTA officers supportive or is it better to work around them? Do you know any teachers or administrators who would be supportive?
  • Start as early as possible. Many parents we’ve heard from say they would have opted out but didn’t learn about it until just before the tests, when it was too late.
  • Focus on your goal: getting parents to opt out. Parents do not need to agree with you about about Common Core, the teachers’ unions, charter schools, or standardized testing in general in order to want to opt out.
  • Emphasize the main problems with high-stakes testing: These tests are a “bad scale,” promoted by politicians and business leaders, with little input from teachers and principals. (Most educators who support testing are doing so because their jobs require them to.)
  • Who are the opinion leaders in your community?  If any of them have criticized high-stakes testing, see if you can get quotes from principals or teachers about the tests — or in support of opt-out. You can then use these quotes in your organizing literature.
  • Middle school admissions is one of the biggest factors preventing parents from opting-out. Call all of your district’s middle schools and ask if they accept students without test scores and if those students would in any way be penalized for not taking the tests.  Collect this information and share it with parents ( A database including admissions info from Brooklyn D15, Manhattan D6, and citywide schools is here. ) If you have schools that do rely on test scores, see if you can find personal contacts with that administration who’d be willing to talk to them about changing their policy.
  • If you collect info on your district, please email it to us nycoptout@gmail so that we can update the above list.

DO NOT

  • DO NOT get bogged down in trying to convert parents who oppose you. Focus on those in the middle — that’s usually most parents!
  • DO NOT focus on the anxiety that tests create. When the issue comes up, by all means give voice to these concerns. But you want to avoid starting off by talking extensively about how the tests make kids cry, are too hard, or are too long. While this emphasis resonates strongly with some parents, it turns off others, who appreciate “rigor.”  These parents may support testing in general as a way to challenge their children to work hard. Focusing too much on the anxiety tests create feeds a stereotype of opt-out as a movement driven by privileged parents who coddle their children, who don’t want their children to face unpleasant challenges.
  • DO NOT use school forums to debate Common Core, teacher’s unions, or standardized testing in general. These issues are divisive. There are a number of parents who support Common Core, oppose the teacher’s unions, and/or agree with a need of standardized testing in general yet would opt-out of the state exams. By getting involved in debates on these issues, you limit the number of opt-outs.

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