Why My Fifth-Grade Daughter Opted Into This Year’s State Tests

By Damian Gaillard, parent of a fifth-grader who attends public school in Harlem, N.Y.

I think we all remember what it was like to be in school and wanting to be with the “cool kids.” It used to be that meant wearing the latest sneakers or a cool pair of jeans, but in wealthy suburban school districts over the past couple of years, the latest trend is keeping your children home during annual school testing. The problem is that, unlike a pair of new Air Jordans, this so-called opt-out movement will end up hurting kids living in high-need areas. That’s because opting out of state tests scales back accountability and makes it harder to spotlight failing schools. The movement reached a fever pitch in New York a couple of years ago, but I’m happy to report that the tide is turning, and it’s becoming “cool” again to say yes to the state tests.

When my daughter took the state reading exam a few weeks ago, she joined hundreds of thousands of students in grades 3 through 8 who participated in the test. In fact, in 74 percent of the 206 New York districts, opt-out rates have decreased or remained flat compared with last year. That’s no surprise in my neighborhood, because parents living in Harlem depend on these assessments to spotlight schools that are failing and to hold the system accountable.

Read the full oped in The 74.

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