Click HERE for a printable PDF of this letter.
April 15, 2019
Dear PTA or SLT parent member,
Earlier this month, Betty Rosa, the Chancellor of the Board of Regents, and MaryEllen Elia, the Commissioner of the State Education Department, felt compelled to release the statement below.
Why did they feel this was necessary? Because reports were pouring in from around the state of administrators using unsavory, and in some cases illegal, tactics to discourage test refusal and buy opt in. (If you skip to page 9 of this link, you will see several pages of NYC-specific incidents.)
Rosa and Elia are very clear that best practice is to “ensure parents have all information to make a decision about the assessments.” Unfortunately, the NYC Department of Education has failed this test. Not only does the department NOT ensure that parents are provided with sufficient information; its Test Participation FAQ deceptively gives the impression that opt out is not even sanctioned. (The statement above from Rosa and Elia explicitly states, “parents have a right to opt their children out.”)
Since the NYCDOE has abdicated its responsibilities in this regard, we request that you, the elected parent representatives in our system, ensure that all parents are informed of their test refusal rights. We have a PDF that you can distribute. Alternately, you could distribute the letters that State Senator Robert Jackson or Council Members Danny Dromm and Brad Lander have written on this subject. (Copies of the letters can be downloaded here.)
This would not be some sort of rogue action; in fact, as far back as 2015, the City Council UNANIMOUSLY approved Resolution 0577-2015, calling upon the DOE to amend its Parents’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to include information about opting out of high-stakes testing. It also called on the DOE to distribute the amended document at the beginning of every school year, to every family, in every grade. To its shame, the DOE has never complied with that resolution.
The state math tests begin the first week of May, so distribution of these documents must take place ASAP so that parents have the time to make an informed decision about whether they want their children to take the math tests. If a parent’s response to the widespread problems with this month’s ELA testing (children testing for unconscionably long hours, sometimes even past dismissal; reading passages many grade levels above what would be appropriate; computer system malfunctions so egregious that the state had to suspend testing and children lost work or spent hours just trying to log in) is to register protest by boycotting the upcoming math tests, they should know state education authorities have confirmed that they have the right to do so, with no negative consequences adhering to their children.
Thank you and happy to respond to any questions you may have,