Educating our Members on Some Background of the Opt Out Movement to Preserve Public Education

News information thanks to Dr. Rick Meyer~~~

I would add a correction to this article. The students who started the school walkout movement in the spring, worked with APS to start Voices in Action (VIA) before the end of the school year. They were regular high school and middle school students. Some have gone on to college, and persist in helping their younger peers to organize and stand for their rights. Jacob Gil, is a concerned father who became involved in late August, when there were issues about the ethical leadership of the prior administration. Their ability to get high numbers of concerned parents and students demonstrated their conviction. The pressure of their consistent messages swayed the district board members to do a better job informing students and families of the tests, their rights, and how to opt out. Jacob has met numerous times with board members.

In case you missed it, Reverend Barber was in Albuquerque speaking at the NM Voices conference in the early summer. His keynote address was highly inspirational for all who attended. His biggest message was to stay strong for the welfare of the students. “We cannot afford to get tired or depressed. Until our students’ rights are provided in full, we must keep moving forward, TOGETHER!”

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From: Network for Public Education <>

by Carol Burris

The Power of Opt Out to Preserve Public Education

Jeanette Deutermann did not intend to become the leader of the most effective opt out organization in the United States. She was a suburban mom trying to figure out why her son no longer wanted to go to school.

The year that Long Island Opt Out began, Tyler Deutermann was an unhappy fourth grader with school anxiety that was increasing every day. During the month of February of 2012, Jeanette began investigating why her son who once loved school so much, now hated it.

“I saw it emerge a little bit during testing season in third grade”, Deutermann said. “But then the test anxiety became constant in fourth grade. After speaking with teachers and parents, I knew it was the testing.”

The 2011-12 school year was the first year that teachers in New York State were to be evaluated by the test scores of their students. Anxiety across the board was running high. She read a letter signed by over one third of New York’s principals that explained why evaluating teachers by test scores would have unintended negative consequences on students. Jeanette began to connect the dots, and she realized that high-stakes testing was the reason that her child and his education were falling apart. “I had to speak out and let other parents know. I felt like a whistleblower—I did not have a choice,” she explained.

Tyler, she decided, would not take the test. In order to organize other like-minded parents, she began a Facebook group—Long Island Opt-Out. It started out small—the first year 1,000 students on Long Island refused the test. Membership in the group ballooned to over 16,000 in year two. Today Long Island Opt Out has over 23,000 members.

Opt Out has spread across the state of New York like a wildfire. In the spring of 2014, between 55,000 and 65,000 students refused to take the 3-8 Common Core tests, with about half of those numbers coming from Long Island. In 2015, the number was in excess of 200,000 test refusals—which meant that 20% of all possible test takers’ parents said, “not my child”.

New York is not alone in test resistance. Opt out in Florida began when Florida teacher, Ceresta Smith, joined five others from Florida, Colorado, Maryland, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania to start a national organization, United Opt Out. By 2013, the Florida opt out movement began to take off. According to parent activist, Sandy Stenoff, “We formed Opt Out Orlando in the spring of 2013 as a way to start with our local community, and in anticipation of Common Core rolling out. The group has grown steadily, but exploded this year, with the implementation of the new CCSS-aligned Florida State Assessment, particularly because of the technical challenges of online implementation.“

As a result of pleas from parents across the state, Stenoff, via Opt Out Orlando, started to help local districts start their own opt out groups in 2014. They were aided in their effort this year when Florida Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, announced that there would be no opt outs on her watch. Numbers skyrocketed from 800 to 3,000 in one month. Stenoff sees opt out in her state growing steadily. There are now more than 40 opt out groups in 34 of Florida’s 67 districts. As of last week, we are now The Opt Out Florida Network.”

Last year about 4,000 Albuquerque, New Mexico students refused the PARCC Common Core tests. In response, Albuquerque Public Schools are publishing an Opt Out kit for parents in order to help opt out go smoother this year.

New Jersey Opt Out began in 2013, started by two sisters, Jean McTavish and Susan Schutt. Fifteen percent of all eleventh-graders in New Jersey refused the state PARCC exam this year. In Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain High School, only 9% of the eleventh graders, 16% of the tenth graders and 30% of the ninth graders showed up to take the PARCC tests this spring. In Pennsylvania, elementary math state test refusals exceeded 4,000. In Washington State, 62,000 students opted out of the Common Core SBAC tests.

Monty Neil is the Executive Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). He saw testing resistance begin in the 1999-2000 school year, but during the last three years it has become “a real phenomenon”, he said. In January of 2013, the teachers of Seattle’s Garfield High announced their unanimous vote to not give the school’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests. One month later, the teachers of Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Chicago refused to give the state’s ISAT exam. When students began organizing testing walkouts in Portland Oregon’s Cleveland High School two months after that, Neil realized that “we were on the edge of a movement.”

Neil attributes the growth of opt out to “testing overkill and its high stakes.” He believes that parents see the new teacher evaluations as using their child’s test results to go after teachers whom they like. Parents see that “my kid is not happy”, and they question testing, Neil said. These concrete experiences are turning the tide.

And indeed that tide has turned. The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll shows that the public rejects testing as the driver of policy and sanctions. Sixty-four percent of those polled said that there was far too much emphasis on testing in schools, and a majority does not want teachers evaluated by test scores. Seven out of ten said that Washington should not have a say in holding schools accountable or determining testing—a clear repudiation of the policies pushed by No Child Left Behind and accelerated by Race to the Top. On the issue of opt out, the public was about evenly split.

Meanwhile, Jeanette and parent activists are gearing up for another season of opt out. They are determined to grow the movement until high-stakes testing is stopped. And they continue to connect the dots, deepening their understanding of how testing threatens the local public schools that they love.

Opt out parents are now seeing beyond the stress of their children and becoming attuned to the connections between testing and charter schools, the Common Core, teacher evaluations based on test scores, school closings, and other politically popular policies designed to undermine public schooling. Opt out has become a movement of civil disobedience and of conscience. It will continue to grow and be the eventual undoing of corporate school reform.

And what might education look like if testing goes away? Jeanette Deutermann surveyed teachers to find out how instruction would change if they knew in the fall that nearly all of their students were opting out of spring testing. Their responses are well worth the read. You can find them here.

Thanks for reading. You can find a link to this report here, and a link to the entire newsletter here. Please share them on social media–educating the public is our shared responsibility.

Thanks for all you do,

Carol Burris

NPE Fund Executive Director


The superintendents of Florida have recently issued a press release stating that they have “lost confidence in the current accountability system for the students of Florida” and ask the commissioner to discard the results of last spring’s Common Core tests. Confidence in testing across the Sunshine State is failing.

Washington State

History teacher Jesse Hagopian talks here about how the Seattle teacher strike won important gains for students in the fight against testing.

New York

Civil rights group call an ad promoting charter schools “racist.” Bertha Lewis, president of The Black Institute, condemned the ad by Families for Excellent Schools. “They found a way to make money and profit off little black boys and girls,” Lewis said. “They act as if they are here to save us.”

You can read more about it here.


Meanwhile, Arizona further destroys its public school system by increasing funding to charters at the expense of public schools.

The story is here.


Billionaires plan to fund charter expansion in Los Angeles until half of all LA students are in charter schools. The pusher of the plan is Eli Broad.

You can read about it here.

NPE recently announced the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference, which will be in Raleigh, NC the weekend of April 16th – 17th. Mark your calendars now to hear keynote speaker Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.

Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

You can read more about Rev. Barber and #NPE16NC on our website.

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve, and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society.

Over the past two years, donations to The Network for Public Education helped us put on two National Conferences, and the first PUBLIC Education Nation. In the coming year, we will hold more events, and work on the issues that our members and donors care about the most!

To make a tax deductible donation, go to the NPE Fund website. We accept donations using PayPal, the most trusted site used to make on-line payments.

Immigrant Children from Central America – for your information.

The message below comes from La Red, an international list on social justice and Latino issues.  This message was provided by Roberto Vasquez on June 28, 2014. Also see



When we look at migrants, we see our nation’s history.  Although we Texans are a diverse lot, we have all been moved by the plight of the desperate young mothers and vulnerable teenagers arriving our border in recent weeks. Public comments, however, reflect a worrisome lack of information. First, we must understand that these new immigrants are not criminals. They are war refugees fleeing the brutal drug wars in their homelands. The cartels of Central America and Mexico have long targeted local adolescents to work for them, and resistance results in death. If we read the statistics, a 15-year-old boy in Honduras would in fact be safer in Syria. Worse yet, the kind of femicide we saw in Juarez, Mexico, is now the norm for women in Central America as well. Parents are sending their children north on the nightmarish train ride because there is no alternative. We are prohibited by international law from returning people to a country where they face persecution or torture. This is not a knee-jerk nicety. After all, sending the refugee boat back to Nazi Germany is not one of our more shining moments. There are, however, reasonable solutions. One immediate and time-tested approach would be to grant Temporary Protected Status to persons in danger of harm by the narco-cartels. This would allow the refugees to work to support themselves and remain safe for a few years, when their situation can be re-evaluated. We have done this successfully before. Likewise we should not be shy about calling in the United Nations or the Red Cross to assist us. We must also get over the idea that “outsiders” are a bad thing for our country. It’s a pretty silly position for anyone except Native Americans. The Puritans were religious refugees, and most colonists were fleeing either persecution or poverty. Devastating wars and natural disasters brought continuing waves of newcomers, including my father, who was then 11. They survived, thrived, and contributed. This is our national heritage. People who were safe, wealthy and happy in the Old World had no motive to mosey over here. Last, many people urge that we increase financial aid to these countries and help establish a more democratic society with a stronger economy. That won’t work. We Americans are the drug consumers, and we spend a pretty penny on these ugly habits. There will always be drug lords as long as we are paying. Importantly, we must remember our own disturbing historical role. The people of Central America worked valiantly for basic labor rights, racial equality and educational programs. They were brutally put down by military dictatorships backed by the United States. Declassified documents indicate that in Guatemala, the CIA helped to carry out a bloody military coup in 1954 to oust just such a reformist president. We then continued to fund an army that carried out a well-documented campaign of genocide against its own citizenry. Some of the bloodiest military officers became involved in the drug trade early on. The Zetas who now terrorize us on the border were armed and trained by Guatemalan Kaibiles, who were in turn armed and trained by, well, us. My husband, a Mayan resistance leader, was tortured to death in Guatemala in the 1990s. One of his torturers, Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, appears on the DEA’s corrupt officer list, but was long permitted to reside in the U.S. After all, as public records indicate, he also worked as a paid informant for the CIA. Apparently that puts him and others off limits. HARBURY IS A FORMER AUSTINITE, WHO IS NOW AN ATTORNEY IN WESLACO.

Tuesday, May 6, 4 PM. When the Mask Comes Off Documentary Premiere and Community Discussion

“When the Mask Comes Off”

Video Premiere and Discussion

Tuesday May 6, 2014- 4:00pm to 6:00pm

YDI Wool Warehouse

516 1st Street NW, Albuquerque, NM

We are honored to partner with Generation Justice on the premiere showing of their latest video documentary, “When the Mask Comes Off” on TUESDAY, May 6th. The film is a powerful video documentary featuring six young people from New Mexico candidly discussing their experiences living with mental illness. A discussion about how we can best support the mental and behavioral health of young people will follow the film.

I will be attending, and I am writing to ask you to consider attending as a member of the Task Force. We want to have a strong showing on Tuesday, and we have committed to at least 10 members from our organization to attend for the premiere and discussion.

Let’s support the youth and leadership of Generation Justice who do such a great job giving young people a voice.

Here is a link to the trailer,, A flier is attached.

For questions and to RSVP call 505-277-1831 (and let them know you are with the Latino Education Task Force)

Thank you,

Diane Torres-Velásquez,

Latino Education Task Force