Buffalo Schools Punishing Students for Opting Out

Hutch Technical High School in Buffalo, NY
Hutch Technical High School in Buffalo, NY

Carol Burris, former New York high school principle and executive director for the Network for Public Education, in a guest post on The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog shared how students were facing consequences for their parents decision to opt them out of standardized assessments.

It’s an attempt to quash the opt-out movement.

Recently, Florida opt-out parents accused their districts of retaliation by issuing threats of retaining young children, or excluding older students from early college programs.  A California high school principal went so faras to deny opt-out students parking privileges, participation in senior activities and off campus passes.

Now it appears that one of the largest school districts in New York State, the Buffalo School District, has denied students entrance to its selective schools based on their parents decision to opt them out.  But a small group of families and a member of the Buffalo Board of Education are pushing back.

Buffalo residents, Gretchen and Jim Cercone, are career educators. Gretchen is a middle school principal in a first-ring suburb of the city, and Jim is a professor of education.  Staunch believers in public schools, they entered their two sons in the Buffalo Public Schools hoping that would be where they would remain through graduation.

Last year, the Cercones decided to join the more than 220,000 New York parents who refused to allow their children to take the New York State English Language Arts and math assessments. For the Cercones, it was a matter of conscience. They made that decision after exhausting all remedies—from writing letters to attending forums—hoping to convince the New York State Education Department to abandon the Grades 3-8 Common Core tests.  As educators, they knew the tests were flawed, and they considered opting out to be the only way to be heard.

A few days before last year’s state assessments, they received a letter stating that a student’s admissions profile for the district’s selective schools could be “impacted” by a lack of Common Core scores. The Cercones decided to test the system to see whether the district was complying with New York State education law regarding the use of Common Core test scores by having their fifth grader apply to the city’s most competitive schools—Olmsted and City Honors.

What the family uncovered was startling.  Not only were the state Common Core tests being used in a way they possibly violates the law, the district, without the passage of policy, had been quietly giving private school students access to the competitive schools without state test scores, even as opt-out students were shut out.

Read the rest.

This is appalling, and must be stopped immediately.