Saturday, May 9, 2015

Opt Out is the People's Movement

Mike Petrilli recently stated, "If this [opt-out] thing goes national, the whole education reform movement is in serious trouble.

Indeed it is. (Listen to him state it here in the Fordham Institute podcast at the 6:43 mark.)

The Opt Out Movement is the people's movement and that makes us dangerous.

Petrilli worries about it going national? That's funny.

His arrogance, and the arrogance of corporate ed. reformers everywhere, caused them to fail to pay close attention when opt out went national over four years ago when the people organized and began the hard work of supporting teachers, students, parents and citizens across the country via a little FB group page titled OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement, which then quickly grew into a website, United Opt Out National, and finally a social movement of individuals across the country working for free, on their own time before work, after work, and on the weekends. The people's movement has spread like wildfire and it is raging forward. There are so many grassroots opt out groups across the country that it is absolutely impossible to count them.

The people's Opt Out Movement is so strong and so fierce now that not only is the "whole education reform movement in serious trouble" - it's going down, and as it goes down, we expect our demands to be met.

At United Opt Out National  we believe in demanding everything for all children.

All of us opting out all over the country have NO funding. This absolutely terrifies them that we can accomplish this with no funding. If we can accomplish this, what else might we be able to do?

Think about that.

What else might we be able to do? Why not get all for all children? We, the people, must harness our power. 

We at UOO refuse to settle for less. We believe in the people. We must not fall for ploys which state that we could only possibly get a little. The state legislatures and the federal ESEA re-authorization only want to give us a little. We can demand it all.

There is a reason that many are attempting to wrestle and gain control of the opt out narrative right now. They wish to control and manage this narrative because it is indeed dangerous to their livelihood.  We have suddenly landed in their backyard just as they landed in ours. There is a reason that organizations and mainstream media refer to the ECS opt out guide (funded by Pearson and Gates) rather than the UOO guides written for the people by the people.

Those trying to co-opt the opt out message all have funding - and this funding means that they have ties to political or corporate ideology. Therefore, they will not demand all for all children because ultimately they need common core and the testing system to thrive in some shape or form in order to save their jobs, their corporations, their status and so that they may continue to push forward their privatization agenda using children, teachers and our communities.

And understand this clearly, the Opt Out Movement is not an anti-testing movement. We all trust our teachers to assess our children - our teachers know how to assess. The corporate ed. reform system of test and punish serves only one purpose - sort, rank, order children and keep them in their place. Teachers do the exact opposite. We determine a child's strengths, attempts and next steps - and we do this using developmentally appropriate practices to make sure all children thrive and love learning. Our goal is to make sure all children are successful and that all children recognize their own strengths and power to make positive change for their lives, our country and our world.

We don't need this test and punish system. We need social policies which protect our children from poverty. We need teachers to be the professionals who are trusted and respected to assess and teach our children. We need our teachers to be able to work together and support one another as professionals. We need our neighborhood schools to be fully funded and resourced so that all children can thrive. We need to reclaim our public schools - reclaim all of it for all people.  The test and punish system denies children everything they deserve. Anyone who supports the test and punish system ultimately does not truly wish to change anything to support all children. They simply want the test and punish system to stay intact so that they may continue to thrive by feeding our children only tests and then - devouring our schools whole.

We have a chance to save the cornerstone of this democracy. Don't settle for less. We don't need less testing, better testing. We don't need to keep ranking and sorting our children only to see the zipcodes once again - this is their game - it is a vicious game that keeps everyone in their place and does NOTHING to solve the problems that plague our society. The public schools are not to blame for society's ills nor can the public schools fix society's ills on their own. We must demand social policies to end childhood poverty and to create equitable funding for our public schools. We know what needs to be done.  Let's do it.

Opt Out is the people's movement. And our work is just beginning. Let the revolution rage forward to levels that bring the test and punish system to its knees in 2015-2016. As we decimate their system, demand everything for all children. No exceptions. All of it.


  1. Thank you for this, Peggy. The pushback by the reformers is a sign that they feel threatened because we will win this. We will continue to be relentless. We will win - for ALL children!

  2. Right again on all counts. Thank you for being such an incredible -- and indefatigable -- leader. What the "reformers" didn't count on was this: in their kids' schools, teachers are accountable to parents and vice versa -/ no one in their kids' schools thinks "accountability" means turning control over what happens in the classroom over to politicians and testing companies. Public school parents are demanding nothing less and nothing other than equality in this domain: their kids' teachers will enjoy the same professional autonomy as those who teach the children of the elite. This is a non-negotiable demand, as the authorities in my state (New York) are learning this spring. Peggy, this isn't over, the main struggle is just beginning, but those with eyes to see can already discern the rapidly approaching end to this era of national insanity.