What Bill Bennett Got Wrong and Right About New York’s Opt-Out Movement and Teacher Unions

Laura Waters:

Today at The 74 Bill Bennett suggests that the opt-out movement in New York is driven solely by teacher union leaders and allies who have spent millions of dollars on robocalls, emails, forums, and other tactics. Their motivation to increase test refusals this year is engineered to undermine “tough, high-quality standardized exams” that “will hold their members accountable and make the possibility of grade inflation more difficult.” It’s “a move by teachers unions and far-left policy leaders to completely abolish any serious accountability within student assessments.”

Certainly, the union campaign to eliminate links between student outcomes on benchmarked tests and teacher evaluations is a major driver in New York. But it’s not the only one, nor the only reason why this year’s opt-out rates appear as high as last year’s, at least in white suburbs. (Best estimates, still preliminary, are that students are opting out in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties at about the same rate as last year while other regions — school districts around Rochester and Albany, for example — are showing lower rates. Minority and lower-class students throughout the state are mostly opting in.)