Below is a video of Tory Lowe from the group Kingston Action For Education. In the video she is addressing a crowd at a school meeting which includes Kingston Superintendent Padalino. Tory Lowe’s main points are to inform parents of their right to refuse the upcoming state tests and to inform people that teachers are being prevented from telling parents about their rights. At :48 she asks the teachers if any of them are allowed to speak to parents and the voice replies are “no” or “not us”. Later on she addresses Superintendent Padalino and asks him if he is OK with teachers sending information home and having conversations with parents about refusing the test.
In his answer, Superintendent Padalino focuses on why the tests are needed and how the results are useful to him. He is in favor of these tests and very clearly not in favor of teachers promoting test refusals.
The superintendent is correct, but not for his stated reasons.
Although Mr. Padalino gives reasons for his data driven needs, there is a glaring problem with teachers being allowed to speak directly to parents to advocate for refusals. Namely, these tests are made to judge the teacher and not the student. The “high stakes” are the teachers “high stakes” and have little if any repercussions for the vast majority of students (this may change in the future). Any teacher who directly discusses test refusals with a parent (or student) has a major conflict of interest. Such discussions may also be inadvertently taking away a parents right to choose to take or refuse the test.
… For example, imagine you are a parent and your child’s teacher talks to you about test refusals. After the conversation, what do you do if you were planning on your child taking the test? If you allow the test to be taken anyway, will this teacher take it out on your child at school? Will the last regular grade of the year be mysteriously low? Will your child be marked as testing trouble by other teachers in the future?
The negative mental questions a parent can think of are limitless… As a parent, your only logical choice is to refuse the test to avoid any questionable activity by the teacher now or in the future. Basically, a conversation like this can effectively cancel your right to make a decision without fear, coercion or worse.
We aren’t the only people to see problems.
According to NYSUT, this may be a legal matter and advises the following at the bottom of their test refusal fact sheet:
Locals and individual union members who advise parents or students to opt out of state tests may face risks.
- A teacher who, in conversations with students or parents, takes a position on testing contrary to the school district’s educational program may potentially be subject to disciplinary action, e.g. charges of misconduct or insubordination. The Supreme Court has held that when a public employee speaks in his/her capacity as an employee, the speech is not constitutionally protected
- However, because standardized testing is a matter of public concern, a local speaking as a union, or an individual member speaking as a parent or citizen, about educational concerns over standardized testing, for instance, in a letter to the editor or in a statement to the Board of Education, is protected by the U.S. Constitution at least so long as they are not encouraging other parents or students to opt out from a test. -bolding & underline by whydad.net
We believe NYSUT is referring to certain cases in this matter:
- PICKERING v. BOARD OF EDUCATION, 391 U.S. 563 (1968)
- GARCETTI et al. v. CEBALLOS
- The AUUP discusses the topic and provides multiple lower court decisions in both directions here
We also believe that NYSUT was 100% correct with their advice to locals and members regarding what they may and may not do/say.
Liability as far as the eye can see.
In the video the superintendent appears agitated at Tory Lowe which may explain why he didn’t elaborate on the legal aspects of allowing teachers to promote test refusals. It is one thing for a parent to convince another to opt out as there is no apparent liability to a district, it is an entirely different story to have officials and their representatives doing this. Although Tory Lowe and her group may want teachers actively convincing parents to opt-out, Superintendent Padalino’s rejection of the idea is likely avoiding years of costly litigation at the expense of the students and Kingston taxpayers.
We firmly believe Superintendent Padalino used the wrong reasons to defend the right policy. The reasons he put forth have critics on countless websites and in the press that detail every nuance imaginable. One of those websites stopcommoncorenys does a good job at presenting a response to various claims in Superintendent Padalino’s reply.
In conclusion, opting out of the state tests should remain a personal choice and right without influence from teachers and administrators who have a vested interest in the results.
Side note: During our review of this article we noticed a newspaper discussing this particular meeting.