Opting Out of PARCC: "Everyone is Talking About it at Whole Foods"

Andy Rotherham has a great piece up at US News on the opt-out “movement.” Clear-headed as always, he  notes that “in fact, for the overwhelming majority of schools and students it’s business as usual. In a few affluent communities opting out of the new Common Core tests is a thing. “Everyone is talking about it at Whole Foods” says one disgusted New York education figure. But so far the opt out craze is more noise than signal.”

Regarding claims that opt-outers are some sort of grassroots, organic.  progressive, melting-potted community, he writes,
To be clear, the opt-out movement is not some organic happening. National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García tried to claim it was during a discussion I moderated a few weeks ago at the Council of Chief State School Officers legislative conference. When I asked her about the millions of dollars some of her state affiliates are spending to encourage test boycotts she didn’t have a response. That’s not very grassroots. In New York the state teachers unionis openly encouraging opt-outs and some PTAs are circulating warmed-over versions of union talking points. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten straddles the issue by saying she vigorously supports the right of parents to opt-out but isn’t urging it.
He also notes that the hue and cry over toxic testing is not about, say, SAT’s or other standardized tests, but only about PARCC:
Parents in Brooklyn, New York, Montclair, New Jersey and other affluent opt-out hot spots are more than happy to opt their children in to the college gateway tests perpetuating privilege and status in this country. Boycotting the new Common Core tests is chic but at the same time millions of students are opting into the SAT and ACT tests while their affluent parents pony up big bucks for tutoring on these and other college gateway achievement tests like Advanced Placement. Education writer Chris Stewart has pointedly noted the cringe-worthy irony of a mostly white led effort to boycott state standardized tests that are arguably most important for low-income and minority students who are frequently denied a quality education in our nation’s public schools.
Speaking of Montclair, where the median household income is  $160,154 and  the median home price is $551,638, the Record reports that “out of a total of 4,623 students in the district registered to take test in grades 3-11, 1,795 refused, or 38.8 percent.” That’s quite possibly the highest rate of opt-outs in the state. More globally, the Star Ledger  quotes N.J. Education Commissioner David Hespe, who said that high school participation is “especially low because the tests aren’t being used as a graduation requirement.” (This regulation was in response to pleas from Education Law Center, which worried that low-income urban students wouldn’t be able to pass the test and would never graduate high school.)

Hespe also, according to the Ledger, said that “the state was approaching 1.6 million tests completed, meaning close to 800,000 students had already participated of the 896,000 projected to take PARCC.”