Category Archives: Advocacy

NYSAPE: 2017 Test Boycott Numbers Remain High; Parents from all Demographics Continue to Reject Test & Punish System

More information contact:
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

Link to Press Release

2017 Test Boycott Numbers Remain High;
Parents from all Demographics Continue to Reject Test & Punish System

Over 225,000 parents across the state, including tens of thousands of first-time refusers, rejected the state’s test-and-punish system, as evidenced by a third consecutive year of opt out numbers hovering near 20%. This is remarkable given that NYSED and local districts continue their attempts to squelch opt out by distributing misleading information and threatening dire consequences that create an environment of confusion and fear for families.

While Commissioner Elia would like to portray students who boycott the state ELA and math tests as ‘white students in rich or average wealth districts’, the data says differently. Only 8% of public school districts even met the required 95% testing participation rate, demonstrating how parents from all districts and demographics are boycotting the testing regime.*

The Board of Regents approved a reduction in state testing from 6 to 4 days (combined ELA and math) at their May meeting. While this is a step in the right direction, significant problems remain. Due to Commissioner Elia’s untimed testing mandate, many students continue to sit for up to 6 hours of testing per day; the Common Core standards, now rebranded the Next Generation Learning Standards, are still far from developmentally appropriate; and student data privacy is still at significant risk. Rather than focusing on the work that needs to be done, including truly overhauling the standards and creating meaningful and developmentally appropriate assessments, Commissioner Elia continues to be divisive, undermining the direction the Board of Regents and the trust of New Yorkers.

Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent, Long Island Opt Out founder and founding member of NYSAPE said, “While State education officials and corporate-reform lobbyist interests debate and interpret the assessment results and opt out numbers using the usual rhetoric, we see parents from all school districts including first-time refusers, overwhelmingly rejecting this test and punish system. Not only have they chosen to protect their children, but they have also joined our community of parents committed to advocating for whole-child policies in our classrooms. This network of hundreds of thousands of advocates will continue to grow and develop strategies to fight against those who wish to profit from our children.”

“NYSED continues to ignore best practices for children and New York State Schools. The test score results only shine a light on the fact that NYSED continues to try and mislead parents and teachers.  NYSED has a long way to go to regain the trust of parents and educators in New York State. Opt Out is remaining steady and is adding thousands of new parents each year,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator and Executive Director of BATs.

Eileen Graham, Rochester public school parent and founder of the Black Student Leadership organization, expressed, “I would like to see more realistic efforts towards meeting the needs of children and not making our children testing ‘lab rats.’ I’m extremely angry that we keep obsessing over testing; instead of partnering with teachers and parents to ensure our children discover their greatness and learn the brilliance they bring to their schools and the world.”

Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent, educator and founding member of NYSAPE, said, “We are five years into the State’s implementation of these clearly flawed standards and assessments and we are still labeling 60% of our students as failures. The Next Generation Learning Standards are nothing more than a rebranded version of the Common Core, adhering to the same invalid back-mapping methodology and lacking any basis in research or evidence. It is time to scrap these shoddy standards and assessments and start over.”

“These tests aren’t serving any purpose other than to keep the testing treadmill turning, preventing meaningful assessment alternatives from emerging and perpetuating unworkable teacher evaluation models. This testing system stifles children’s thirst for learning and is being used to usher in pervasive computer-based testing activity,” said Fred Smith, testing specialist and former administrative analyst for New York City public schools.

Kemala Karmen, Brooklyn public school parent and founding member of NYC Opt Out said, “The Commissioner, and others, including NYC’s mayor and chancellor, disingenuously use the test scores to boast that students are making “progress.” Progress on standardized tests can only be measured if the testing instrument, conditions, and manner of scoring remain consistent from year to year. This is not the case. Changes this year include some students taking the tests on computers rather than paper and some students having questions read aloud (meaning that they are no longer being tested on decoding, as in previous years). As ever, the determination of what raw score equals “proficient” changes every year and the untimed policy (and failure to track how long students are actually spending) makes direct comparison even less tenable.”

Johanna Garcia, NYC public school parent and President of the District 6 Community Education Council said, “There were many reports of intentional misinformation that bordered on students’ and parents’ civil rights being violated. If NYSED and NYCDOE had confidence in the testing regime, they wouldn’t have to heavily invest in policies that condoned internal threats and scare tactics. Because of their fear mongering, we see classrooms with students learning in fear. We need to finally have a public education system that’s accountable to the students’ learning instead of false numbers that further political agendas.”

New York parents remain steadfast in their advocacy for stronger child-centered policies and will continue to boycott state tests that are a waste of precious resources that would be better served addressing the opportunity gap.

* Participation rate calculated by counting NYC as one district (as NYSED itself often does). Public schools only (not charter schools).

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.


New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), Long Island Opt Out, New York BATs, NYC Opt Out and Stronger Together Join Forces

NYSED Declares Scores Not Comparable, Opt Out Grows Across State

More information contact:
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

Link to Press Release

NYSED Declares Scores Not Comparable, Opt Out Grows Across State

This past Friday afternoon, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the results of the 2016 NYS Common Core 3-8 ELA and math results. Despite expensive ad campaigns from Gates-funded advocacy groups and the distribution of “Anti Opt-out” toolkits by Commissioner Elia aimed at persuading parents to opt in to state tests, the test non-participation rate increased from 20 percent last year to 22 percent.

As Chris Cerrone, a school board member and NYSAPE member from Western NY said, “Given Commissioner Elia’s public relation blitz across the state and all the interviews she did with the media, as well as all the money spent by the pro-Common Core groups, the increase in opt out numbers indicates that parents remain very concerned about the low quality of these tests and the direction of education in our state.”

An increase in test refusals were seen across the state, including in large urban districts like Buffalo and New York City. In only 5 percent of districts statewide –38 out of 686 — was the test participation rate at or above 95 percent for ELA and math.  If the current proposed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regulations are adopted, this would mean that the state would have to punish the vast majority of schools by giving them low grades or imposing aggressive intervention plans. (see chart below)

“Despite the relentless and well-funded PR push back we received in the city, more and more parents are becoming educated on just how harmful standardized testing is for their children. The increase in opt-out is a significant win for immigrant families, students with special needs and students from low income households. Our grassroots approach is resonating with parents seeking true equity in public education,” said Johanna Garcia, NYC parent and Co-President of District 6 President’s Council.

“Overall, these exams not only demonize our students and teachers, but the entire city of Rochester. I will not allow my child to take an exam that does not accurately reflect her progress. I’m not against testing, but I am against tests with no educational value,” Eileen Graham, Rochester parent of 4th grader and founder of Black Student Leadership.

Long Island districts again this year opted out in large numbers, some as high as 84%.  Many other districts also experienced over 50% of student refusing to take the tests. (see chart below)

Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent, the founder of Long Island Opt Out and a member of NYSAPE said, “The opt out movement continues to expand despite the aggressive campaign to thwart our efforts and marginalize our voices. Parents demand nothing short of a complete overhaul to our excessive testing system, a ban on the mining of sensitive personal data, replacement of flawed Common Core with research-based standards, and a permanent decoupling of evaluations from test scores.”

Despite their own warning that this year’s test scores could not be compared to last year’s because the tests were shorter and untimed, NYSED still claimed that increases in this year’s ELA scores over last year’s scores justified their continuing to implement the Common Core standards and Common Core aligned exams. These contradictory statements undermine NYSED’s credibility.

The reality is that without a more careful analysis of the tests themselves, their length, and the impact of giving them untimed, it is impossible to ascertain if achievement increased, decreased, or stayed the same as last year.  In addition, the fact that so few schools and districts had a 95% participation rate also undermines their reliability.

“The fact that 95% of school districts in NYS did not meet the federal and state participation requirements significantly weakens the reliability and validity of test scores for accountability purposes. How can Commissioner Elia claim that these scores are valid or show any improvement in achievement,” asked, Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator, and Opt Out CNY founder.

“There is little doubt that parents will continue to exercise their right to refuse harmful state tests and right now it is imperative that Commissioner Elia and the Board of Regents advocate for a revision in the proposed ESSA regulations, or else face having to intervene in most of the schools in the state,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and BATs Executive Director

“Parents were very concerned when MaryEllen Elia was named Commissioner, due to her links to the Gates Foundation in Florida.  Skepticism was withheld to give her the benefit of the doubt while changes were discussed.  However, her continued failure to address the concerns of parents have only further eroded confidence in her leadership and in the State Department of Education,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

In response to increases in test refusal, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia attacked critics and claimed that parents refusing the state tests were unaware of “important” changes made to the tests. Bianca Tanis, Ulster County Public School parent and educator said, “The small changes and tweaks made by the NYS Education Department are simply not enough. Nothing has changed for the individual child and to suggest otherwise is just plain wrong.”

Said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters: “Between 2003 and 2009, the NY State Education Department engaged in rampant test score inflation, by making the tests and the scoring easier, without admitting this.  After that, the bubble burst and the scores fell radically with the introduction of Common Core-aligned exams, when our Commissioner was intent on proving to parents their children and their schools were failing.  I fear that state officials are still manipulating the scores for political ends.  It is no wonder that New York parents do not trust these exams to give an accurate picture of their children’s learning.”

“NYSED must work more consistently with teachers, parents, and students, to create policy that supports whole child initiatives in every community. It’s tiresome to continue to sell our children and families short by engaging annually in narrow discussions about learning that only focus on ELA and mathematics, while continuing to neglect science, the arts, and civic engagement,” said Jamaal Bowman, Bronx public school educator and parent.

“Why would anyone support tests designed for over 60 percent of students to fail? If a teacher gave a test in her classroom where over 60 percent failed she would rightly question the validity of her test. This is insanity,” said Tim Farley, Hudson Valley principal and public school parent.

It is clear that the over-emphasis and misuse of test scores with questionable validity and no educational purpose continue to rob our public schools of valuable instructional time and resources. Until the leaders of public education in NYS begin to focus on closing the opportunity gap by addressing the inequitable resources in our schools and heed the demands of parents and educators for evidence-based and child-centered educational policies, the opt out movement will continue to grow.

2016 Test Refusal Analysis – Public School Districts
ELA Tests 2016
# of districts – less than 95% participation 648
% less than 95% participation 94%
# of districts – 95% or more participation 38
% 95% or more participation 6%
Math Tests 2016
# of districts – less than 95% participation 655
% less than 95% participation 95%
# of districts – 95% or more participation 31
% 95% or more participation 5%
Test Refusal increase from ELA to Math 2016
# of districts 582
% of districts 85%
Test Refusals by Percent Thresholds % of Districts*
20% and over test refusals 72%
30% and over test refusals 48%
40% and over test refusals 30%
50% and over test refusals 19%
*Based on NYSED math test refusal figures
# of public school districts (includes big five): 686

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.


NYSAPE Action Alert – Time to Refuse All NYS Field Tests

The following action alert was issued by the New York State Allies for Education (NYSAPE).  It does a fine job explaining why parents should refuse any field tests on behalf of your children.  We will continue to update the public as more information is obtained.  If you have not already done so, please submit your refusal letter as soon as possible.

Dear Allies,

We are calling on parents to contact their district TODAY and request that their school districts RETURN the 2016 grade 3-8 stand-alone field tests to the NYS Education Department (NYSED) and at a minimum, parents should complete and submit this refusal letter on behalf of their children. Here’s the list of schools being field tested this year:

Over 2,300 schools have been assigned to administer the stand-alone field tests to a quarter of a million students (250,000) starting this Monday, May 23rd and given any day through June 10th.  In addition, schools are currently administering Regent field tests which you can also refuse.

Since 2013, a growing number parents have refused the field tests for their children, and many districts have returned the boxes of tests unopened so their students wouldn’t have to sit for the extra stand-alone tests. Just recently, the media reported on New Paltz’s Board of Education nysaperejecting the field tests for its students.

What are field tests?

Testing companies often pay subjects to get feedback on experimental test questions. The information they get is used to produce and sell future exams. Since 2012, NYSED has allowed the testing company Pearson to use NYS children FREE OF CHARGE to try out test questions for the following April’s statewide exams.

In fact, your taxpayer money covers the cost of administering these tests. Field tests for grades 3-8 will take up to 50 minutes to administer. For your information, field test questions were also embedded in the April grade 3-8 ELA, math and science state assessments. This, of course, increased the length of the ELA, math and science exams.

Are parents informed about field tests – what they are and when they are administered?

In most cases, no. Many districts administer field tests to students without informing parents. You can call or email your school to find out when the tests are being administered this year.

Are field tests graded?

Field test results have no bearing on your child’s report card grades, teacher evaluations, or school rankings. The testing company and NYSED provide no feedback or information of any educational value to districts. Refusing these tests is a must.

Can we refuse field tests? How?

Of course. If you did not already check off field tests in your state test refusal letter simply send in a letter stating you do not want your child taking ANY field tests. Instruct your child not to take the test if anyone in their schools attempts to administer them.

How are schools selected for field tests?

Each year SED generates a list of districts, schools and specific grades within them that are assigned to administer field tests. Field tests are then shipped to them. This year, districts were asked to participate in computer-based field testing. If your school is on the computer-based field test list, it is because your child’s services have been volunteered for this latest giveaway.

Are districts mandated to administer field tests?

No. Every year dozens of districts send back field tests unopened to protect their students from the excessive and unnecessary additional testing. Last year the Board of Regents sought a regulation that would make field testing MANDATORY. The proposed regulation never came to a vote because sharp public resistance rose against it. It has not come up again.

Please send in your refusal letter for this year’s field tests TODAY and request that your district join the growing list of districts refusing to administer these meaningless assessments.

Thank you for your continued advocacy to save public schools and ensure all children receive a quality public education.

NYS Allies for Public Education

Commissioner Elia & NYSED Untimed Testing Policy Violates Law: Parents & Educators Demand Board of Regents Intervene

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  April 11, 2016  nysape
More information contact:
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)
Commissioner Elia & NYSED Untimed Testing Policy Violates Law:
Parents & Educators Demand Board of Regents Intervene

Despite efforts by NYS Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia and others to suppress refusal numbers, it appears that the opt out rate for the NYS Common Core ELA tests in grades 3-8 matched or surpassed last year’s figures. As a result of Commissioner Elia’s unilateral decision to implement a policy of untimed testing, some 8, 9, and 10-year old students sat for hours trying to finish these exams, in some cases taking 4-6 hours per day for three consecutive days.

Not only does the practice of untimed testing for young students violate the generally accepted standards for test development as per the American Psychological Association, parents and educators contend that it is breaking the law.  In 2014, New York State passed a law placing a 1% cap on the amount of instructional hours that could be spent on mandated state testing. As a result of Commissioner Elia’s new untimed test directive, many students have spent more than 4 times the amount of time on state testing than New York State law allows.

Parents and educators are demanding the Board of Regents put a stop to a policy that was not only implemented by the Commissioner without a Board of Regents’ vote, but is unsupported by research, violates the 1% test cap law and ultimately, results in cruel and grossly inappropriate testing conditions.

Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator and technical advisor to the Task Force said, “It is outrageous that despite the Common Core Task Force’s recommendation that the state undertake a formal review of untimed testing, Commissioner Elia, a member of the task force, chose to forgo her own recommendation and essentially experiment on our children by implementing an untimed testing without formal review or a vote by the Board of Regents.”

“These tests teach children to hate school and establish bad memories associated with testing which will persist for decades. Once again, policy makers have shown that they do not understand children or schools. We will not allow New York state to abuse our children’s sincere desire to do well. Until we see radical change, opt outs will continue to grow,” said Charmaine Dixon, Brooklyn public school parent, PTA President PS 203.

“Not only did the Commissioner bypass any formal review, under her leadership NYSED failed to require school districts to maintain any data regarding the number of students testing beyond the suggested end times, let alone how long students worked for.  This sloppy oversight reflects a gross lack of concern for the many young children who sat for up to 18 hours of testing over the course of three days last week and will make it more difficult for parents and policymakers to have a true understanding of how much instructional time has been lost to testing and whether or not the state law has been broken. One can only hope that this oversight was not intentional,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent and educator.

“Without any oversight or monitoring of its impact, this policy is directing schools to violate the 1% test cap law. The failure of the NYSED to keep any official records of how long individual students are spending on these tests is neglectful at best. At worst, this is a blatant attempt to evade the law and deceive the public under the guise of reducing test anxiety for children,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

“There has to be a better way forward for our children. Students are working incredibly hard to do their best and are sometimes testing for 4 hours in a single sitting. For students with special needs, English language learners, and those who aren’t developmentally ready, these untimed tests are akin to torture. We must pivot toward a holistic education system where kids are inspired to share their brilliance and do their best, as opposed to our current poorly designed top down test and punish system. Neither the SAT, GRE, or LSAT, take as long to complete as the current 3rd grade ELA exam. We have to do better,” said Jamaal Bowman, parent and Bronx educator.

In a recent interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal news, Commissioner Elia stated “We’re going to look to try to get it down from three days (of testing) to two, maybe we won’t be able to … we’re going to review it.” Clearly there is no end in sight to developmentally inappropriate state assessments that waste valuable instructional time and violate the state’s test cap law.

NYSAPE, a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state, is calling on parents to continue to opt out by refusing high-stakes, inappropriate testing for the 2015-16 school year. Go to for more details.


KPCTA: Changes are a good step in the right direction, but not sufficient enough to remove the concerns surrounding the State tests.

The following was posted on the Kings Park Classroom Teachers Association’s Facebook Page.  Please consider sharing with your friends.

Over the last couple of years, parents have become increasingly aware of the high stakes associated with State standardized tests administered in 3rd through 8th grade in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Many parents are looking towards their child’s teacher for advice and guidance. First and foremost, it would be inappropriate for any individual teacher to advise you on whether or not to refuse the test for your child. As President of the Kings Park Classroom Teachers Association (KPCTA), however, it is my job on behalf of all our teachers to point out the difficulties with these exams.

NYS recently enacted some small changes for this year’s tests. It is our opinion that these changes are a good step in the right direction, but not sufficient enough to remove the concerns surrounding the State tests. Students who sit for the exams will still encounter tests that were made by a test vendor who has no idea who your child is, let alone their individual strengths or weaknesses. The State has said that the tests will be shorter, but as you look closely, in many cases the difference is only a few questions compared to the number in prior years. Students will still be spending many hours over multiple days taking these tests. Additionally, teachers continue to be under pressure to provide “test prep,” as the assessment data from these exams is still reportable to NYS. All of this translates to undue stress on the students and an unnecessary loss of instructional time. The KPCTA is strongly opposed to the usage of high stakes standardized tests to evaluate students and teachers.
If you determine that your child will not take these tests, it is imperative that they refuse the entire “battery” of the ELA, Math, and/or Science tests. If they take a portion of the test on one day and then refuse on the remaining day(s), their test will be scored on the portion of the test they completed, producing a lower than normal score which could have a detrimental effect.

As for the procedure to indicate a test refusal, I encourage you to notify your child’s teacher as soon as possible. The NYS Allies for Public Education ( along with the Kings Park Advocates for Education ( both have sample letters posted on their websites available for you to use in indicating a test refusal for your child.
Protecting the educational, social, and emotional wellbeing of all students is what brings individuals into the teaching profession. We will continue to be strong advocates for a safe, appropriate, and healthy learning environment for all of our students. It is our hope that in the future both the Federal and State Education departments leave curriculum and assessment decisions in the hands of the professionals in the field – your teachers!

Christopher Philp, President

NYSAPE: Obama & Cuomo’s Education Statements Offer NO Testing Relief or Reduction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  October 26, 2015
More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917)
NYS Allies for Public Education
Link to release:

Obama & Cuomo’s Education Statements Offer NO Testing Relief or Reduction

This weekend President Obama’s administration acknowledged its role and responsibility in the massive expansion of testing in schools, and declared US Department of Education would be part of the solution. The “solution” proposed, is a non-binding recommendation to cap the tests at 2% of instructional time.

Parents of New York are not fooled.  They know the cap recommended by President Obama actually is higher than the 1% cap passed by the New York State Legislature in 2014 – a “cap” already violated by the duration of the New York State tests themselves.

Governor Andrew Cuomo responded to the Obama announcement this weekend declaring, “I agree with President Obama and Secretary Duncan that we must reverse the overemphasis on testing.”

Parents of New York do not agree with a solution that is NO SOLUTION from President Obama, his outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan and replacement, embattled former NY Education Commissioner John King.  Their statement this weekend keeps excessive testing exactly where it is and does NOTHING to reduce the tests that parents have cried out for.

President Obama, Governor Cuomo, and new NYS Commissioner Maryellen Elia continue to advance an agenda aligned with their donors and fail to heed the warnings of parents.  Opt-Outs will continue to be necessary until the following policies are implemented:

  1. Student test scores are decoupled from the professional evaluations of teachers.
  2. The Common Core is replaced with the “lost” New York State Standards that were held up to public scrutiny before Race to the Top’s incentive scheme forced the NY Standards to be abandoned.
  3. Parental Consent is required for data profiling of students to be shared beyond local community school districts.

Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out, “I can already save my own kids from the 2%. It’s the other 98% that revolves around testing that I can’t save them from”. And “after 4 years, the acknowledgement of their policies unintended consequences is little consolation to my children whose entire elementary school careers were defined by testing”.

“If the Obama administration expects parents to find comfort in their latest acknowledgement over excessive high-stakes testing – this certainly isn’t the first – they are sorely mistaken. Their proposed remedies are nothing more than tweaks to a test-and-punish regime that remains fundamentally unchanged. Nothing short of a full stop will satisfy parents because our children only get one shot at a K-12 education. The Bush-Obama-Gates grand experiment with public education needs to end – now,” said Nancy Cauthen, parent of two high school students in NYC.

“At the end of the day, both Governor Cuomo and President Obama continue to ignore an indisputable truth- the use of test scores to evaluate the efficacy of teachers and schools corrupt both teaching and learning. Under our current system, inappropriate assessments end up setting the pace and content of instruction rather than the needs and interests of students.  A cap on time spent on testing does nothing to ameliorate this,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent and special education teacher.

“It is not enough to talk about reducing the presence of testing, laws must be changed and policy revised in order to protect our children from the consequences of the failed test and punish agenda.  In failing to make real change, these leaders have only fueled parents’ desire to push back against reforms and protect their children,” said Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator and founder of Opt Out CNY.

Katie Zahedi, Dutchess County principal and parent, “This test-based policy distortion could not have occurred in our public schools without collusion between politicians and corporate supporters since the legislature is charged with oversight of public schools. The question is: are our representatives going to take responsibility for the harm to our students and schools along with the waste of public funds that they now acknowledge. If not, are they at least prepared to assure that they will never act with such cavalier arrogance again?”

“The policies of Cuomo and the Obama Administration have ruined the education of my son, a child with disabilities, who has had to endure five years of their failed policies.  They have also ignored the peer reviewed research on what we need to do to make schools better for our neediest children. We have lost a generation of children, due to their ignorance, egos, and failed policies,” Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator and BATS Executive Director.

Get your test refusal letter here: and exercise your power NOW to say no to these harmful policies and take back your kid’s classrooms.