Opt-Outers in N.J. Are on a "Collision Course with Low-Income Families of Color"

Robert Pondiscio’s article, “Opting Out, Race, and Reform” (referenced in the post below), deserves a little more detail than just NJEA’s insult to poor families. I have spoken before of how the highest opt-out numbers are in N.J.’s wealthiest districts (see here, here, and here) but haven’t had the, er, bandwidth to carefully collate the numbers.

Lucky for me,  Pondiscio’s colleague Dominique Coote put the numbers on a spreadsheet. The data comes from NJEA's list, which it intends to use for lobbying purposes.The results shows that 14 of N.J.'s 591 school districts had 500 or more refusals and all but two of these districts were wealthy and white. For example, three of those 14  districts were Cherry Hill, Livingston, and Princeton, the home base of SOS-NJ, which, along with NJEA, is successfully lobbying the State Assembly to pass anti-testing bills. (Both groups have  Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan in their deep pockets. Diegnan is chair of the Assembly Education Committee and also sponsored the anti-testing bills which, sources tell me, were co-written with SOS- NJ lobbyists.)

The only district with 500 or more refusals that wasn’t “extremely white” was East Orange

Pondiscio continues,
[I]f New Jersey is a litmus test, and the move to opt out of testing remains “a thing” chiefly among affluent, white, progressive, families, it puts them on a political collision course with the low-income families of color who have been the primary beneficiaries of testing and accountability in the reform era. Blacks, Latinos, and low-income kids have generally benefitted from test-driven accountability, particularly in the increased number of charters and school choice options, as well as some promising (but not necessarily causal) upward trends in NAEP scores and graduation rates during the accountability era. Test scores have created a powerful catalyst for reform—both educationally and politically—that disproportionately benefits low-income families.
Now take a look at the refusal numbers for districts that serve predominantly low-income, black, and Hispanic families—places like Newark, Camden, Paterson, and Trenton. Actually, you can't. They’re not among the approximately 250 districts on the NJEA list. Of the thirty-one so-called “Abbott Districts” in the state, named for the 1985 court case aimed at ensuring adequate education funding for schools serving poor children, only seven are on the NJEA list. East Orange, with 520 reported PARCC refusals, is the only Abbott District to see significant opt-outs. The other six range from thirty refusals in Hoboken to a single reported refusal in Long Branch.
Let's  hear that again: districts that serve predominantly low-income minority families are not on NJEA's list because every parent there chose to have their children "opt-in."  And, with the exception of East Orange, the only refusals in Abbott districts were so small as to be statistically insignificant.
What is undeniable is that those most likely to be negatively effected by the opt-out impulse are low-income children of color, for whom testing has been a catalyst for attention and mostly positive change. [NYCAN’s Derrell] Bradford sees the conflict as “a study in power in American politics.” Even though the opt-out impulse may unite the far right and the progressive suburban left, he notes, it's really a combined effort by people who are largely white and affluent. “Three suburban moms in Indiana decide they don't like Common Core and all hell breaks loose. But when 250,000 minority kids languish in New York's worst schools, any proposed change is too much, too fast, and too punitive,” he concludes. “I don't blame people for who they are, but you cannot miss the message here unless you willingly choose to.”
Read the whole thing if you have any interest -- pro or con -- in N.J.'s current preoccupation with annual state standardized testing. 

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