“As the opt out movement grows, we grow - sometimes in different directions and sometimes together - as we adjust to policy changes that impact our schools.” United Opt Out National. Growth is necessary to ensure we continue to refuse to accept the privatization of our schools and communities. As a form of resistance, opt out threatens those who seek to push their toxic brand of reform on public education. And as the tactics change and evolve, opt out is needed more than ever.
Opt out is a type of civil disobedience. It is a form of protest where parents, students, and teachers refuse to submit to the perverted use of high stakes standardized testing. We never wanted permission to opt out. We never asked for an opt out clause. We promoted opt out as a tool for stopping the corporate assault on public education. Opt out was to be the first domino that sends the rest falling down. If a whole class opts out then there is no need for test prep and if a whole school opts out then there is no need to use valued added measures (VAM) to evaluate teachers. And one by one the dominoes fall as we get closer to tearing down the school reform house of cards.
Since ESSA was passed, we at United Opt Out National have encouraged parents, students, and teachers to refuse indoctrination through digital learning. As we became aware of how the reformers would use ESSA to push through their new scheme we restructured our goals to include:
Push for protections for quality pedagogy, the teaching profession, and public school funding that the newly legislated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) attempts to tear down via the push toward isolationist computer based digital instruction that facilitates indoctrination, free for all data mining, and compromised cognitive, physical, and social development; the alternative teacher certification programs that place unqualified people in classrooms, and the unregulated charter industry that strips public schools of resources, increases segregation, and allows for theft of public money.
Instead of only opting out of high stakes standardized tests, we have promoted opting out of all digital learning and assessments. In fact, given the documented negative effects of excessive screen time on children’s healthy development, our revised opt out letters must call for no screen time or a very limited amount each day (see sample letter below). We must make it clear that no matter what legislation is passed or what new gimmicks they create; we will not be tricked into thinking that corporations have our best interest at heart.
You see, those who seek to privatize education are always promoting choice. They promote charters because it gives parents choice. They support competency based education and personalized learning because it is tailored to the needs of children and gives them choices. Well we support choice too. And opt out is a choice. A choice to just say no. No to the privatization schemes. No to turning education into a business. No to replacing teachers with computers. No to non-educators controlling education. As parents, students, and teachers we get to choose what type of education system we want. And when we opt out our choice becomes crystal clear.
In fact, we at United Opt Out National are working to broaden the opt out movement by hosting a Civil Rights Summit in Houston, Texas October 14-16. Our goal is to work with Houston AFT and civil rights groups who have historically misunderstood the opt out movement, to determine if we can build common ground around the harmful effects high stakes standardized testing is having on black and brown communities. Broadening opt out to be more inclusive of the needs of communities of color is another way we keep opt out alive and well and counter the myth that opt out is for white soccer moms. Opt out is about reclaiming our people power to fight back against what we know is wrong. Opt out is only as strong as the people who use it. And the more we continue to resist the stronger we become.