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Opting In to Standardized Testing

Despite their vocal opposition to standardized testing, most parents do not have the courage of their convictions when their own children are involved ("Some Parents Oppose Standardized Testing on Principle, but Not in Practice," The New York Times, Apr. 14). New York State serves as a case in point.

Last year, about 49,000 (four percent) of the estimated 1.1 million eligible students refused to take the English exam, while 67,000 (six percent) refused to take the math exam.  On suburban Long Island, half of school districts reported opt-out rates of more than 10 percent. This data are important because New York is the center of nationwide anti-testing resistance.

Are these parents hypocrites?  I say no.  As Andrew Quinn, a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a letter to the editor: "Ethicists have long agreed that our duties to kin outweigh other considerations" ("Our Choices for Schools," The New York Times,  Apr. 26, 2014). In other words, it's only natural for parents to do what is best for their children. I'm not saying that taking standardized tests should be equated with a quality education.  But I wonder why outspoken opponents of these tests don't follow through with their actions.

Indeed, even organizers of forums against standardized testing are not willing to rock the boat by opting out.  Instead, what they should be fighting for is not the elimination of standardized tests but their misuse.  Finland uses standardized tests strictly for diagnostic purposes and never makes the results public.  Why can't we do the same?

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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