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Should New York City Teachers Support Opt Out?

Two Views in the UFT

John C. Antush is a public high school teacher in New York City, a delegate in the United Federation of Teachers, and a member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE).

New York State’s Opt Out movement was described by the New York Times as “the vanguard of an anti-testing fervor that has spread across the country.”1 The movement consists primarily of parents and students who fought against high-stakes Common Core State Standard (CCSS) tests by “opting out” of taking the exams. Unfortunately, right up until December 2015, when federal legislation removed CCSS mandates, the leadership of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the largest union local of any kind in the United States, in the largest school district, took a different line. President Michael Mulgrew and his entrenched Unity caucus supported the CCSS and standardized testing, including the use of student test scores as part of teacher evaluations, and refused to support Opt Out. At the 2014 convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Mulgrew harangued educators that “The [Common Core State] standards are ours. Tests are ours.” He intoned: “If someone takes something from me, I’m going to grab it right back outta their cold twisted sick hand and say ‘that’s mine!’ You do not take what is mine! And I’m gonna punch you in the face and push you in the dirt.… These are our tools! And you sick people need to be away from us and the children that we teach.”2

Meanwhile, rank-and-file UFTers in the MORE-UFT (Movement of Rank and File Educators) caucus and other groups joined the city’s Opt Out movement as part of the struggle against “ed deform.”3 Jia Lee, as a “Teacher of Conscience,” publicly refused to administer high-stakes tests starting in 2014. She continues to educate school communities about opt-out rights and speaks out for the city’s movement. She is also running for UFT president on the joint slate of MORE-UFT and New Action, two opposition caucuses within the union. Lee is a special education instructor, the parent of an eleven-year old, and a member of Change the Stakes (CTS), a New York City Opt Out group consisting mostly of parents.

This article is not about the massive parent and student-led “Opt Out Spring” of 2015. It is about how Opt Out threw into relief two different ways of thinking about unionism within New York City’s UFT. Mulgrew fits Lois Weiner’s description of a union official who has taken the attitude “that teachers’ unions should respond to the calls for ‘excellence’ and ‘accountability’ in education” by being conciliatory towards corporate education reform. These leaders have “ceded vital job protections,” and as a result, “standardized testing, having test scores linked to teachers’ pay and evaluations, has turned many schools that serve children of working and poor families into little more than training grounds for unemployment, low-wage labor, and prison.”4 Robert Fitch’s insight about union democracy also applies: while the UFT is formally democratic, a “one-party machine culture” limits the union’s “political horizon” to a severely restricted “scope of class conflict.”5 One caucus, Unity, has always held the presidency and controlled major posts. Unity members pledge to vote as a bloc, enabling the caucus to engineer decisions in the Delegate’s Assembly.6

MORE-UFT, formed in 2012, tries to embody and promote something like the alternative model Weiner envisions: a “social movement unionism” that “casts the unions’ strength as a function of its ability to mobilize its members to struggle on their own behalf and to join” with other movements, for example, with Opt Out.7 Unions cannot push back on evaluations and testing, Weiner points out, “unless they learn to build mutually respectful alliances with parents, community and students.”8 Similarly, Fitch’s work suggests that MORE-UFT’s aim cannot just be to “democratize” the union internally; it can only defeat the one-party machine “by extending scope of conflict.”

Two Lines Emerge in the UFT: 2013–2015

President Mulgrew clearly laid out his line on CCSS tests in October 2013 before a State Senate Committee.9 He noted “around the state, growing vocal opposition by parents against the Common Core.” He suggested parents were protesting because low test scores were “showing their children suddenly deemed below par,” echoing Arne Duncan’s comments that Opt Out was the work of “white suburban moms” irritated that their kids were not “brilliant.”10 Mulgrew framed the problem as merely a “bad rollout of CCSS.” “Our concern at the UFT,” he said, “is that the same rejection of the new national standards will happen in New York City because of the inept rollout that has been so unfair to both students and educators.” As a solution he requested “a temporary moratorium on the high stakes attached to the state tests. New York State should continue the tests and teacher evaluations. But both the state and New York City need to pause in having the test results used in high-stakes decisions such as whether students are promoted to the next grade or in teachers’ evaluations.… A moratorium…would help to defuse opposition to the Common Core.” He asserted that the union had “asked the city’s Department of Education for new curricula.” This would have solved the problem, because “we would have seen different test results.” With curricula in place, Mulgrew suggested, high-stakes tests that count for students and for teacher evaluations would be fine.11

Several months earlier, in the spring of 2013, MORE-UFT was already teaming up with CTS to host Jesse Hagopian in a public forum at the Earth School. Hagopian, a teacher, was the lead organizer of the successful boycott of high-stakes testing at Garfield High School in Seattle. By that fall, MORE was immersed in a battle against the new teacher evaluation system that the Mulgrew/Unity leadership had supported and accepted without consulting members, tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. Also that October, MORE supported the boycott of K-2 testing by parents at Castlebridge Elementary School in Washington Heights. The MORE-UFT website reported “90 percent of families” at the school “have opted out of K-2 exams imposed by the new eval[uation] system.”12 In 2012 just 113 students had opted out in the city; in 2013, 356 opted out.13

In the winter of 2014, MORE, Teachers Unite, CTS, and the NYC Student Union organized the More Than a Score conference, with more than 150 parents, teachers, administrators, and students participating. Opt Out sample letters, talking points, and other materials were discussed and circulated. In the spring, as Opt Out took off, MORE and CTS issued a joint press release in the city announcing the “Number of NYC Parents Refusing State Tests Expected to Triple in 2014.”14

Parents were on the move. On March 28, 2014, the New York Times reported on Opt Out in the city, noting that “the most significant aspect of this wave of testing dissent is its expansion beyond the world of affluent white parents.” Parents from upper Manhattan and Bronx schools held a press conference and rally outside Hamilton Heights School in Harlem, “an elementary school where 80 percent of students receive free lunch.” Bronx mother Rosa Perez-Rivera was opting out her daughter because she saw how her child had lost the thrill of going to school with the increase in test prep. “Just as she is getting interested in a subject and grasping it, they’re moving on to the next,” she told the Times. Another parent, Jasmine Batista, said her ten-year-old son “was concerned that he would not go on to the next grade.” As a result “he was crying, he had no appetite, he couldn’t sleep.” Over 120 families at Hamilton Heights opted out of the English and math state exams. The uptown and Bronx parents called for a “Test Free Children’s Zone.”15

Parents from different schools organized another Opt Out rally and press conference in Brooklyn on April 1, 2014. Latasha Wheeler, a mother of three and a parent at PS 446 in Brownsville, announced to reporters, “Brownsville is out!” Parents also organized school meetings, expressed their dissent to elected officials, and organized a rally against testing at City Hall.16

Some city teachers were putting into practice an alternative to the Mulgrew/Unity line. On April 3, 2014, Jia Lee, Colin Schumacher, and Emmy Matias, teachers at the Earth School on the Lower East Side, released their letter to the city’s Chancellor Carmen Fariña. They would refuse to administer CCSS tests, stating “we are acting in solidarity with those parents who are opting out.”17 Their “Teachers’ of Conscience Position Paper” exposed the role of the Broad, Walton, and Bill and Melinda Gates foundations. These forces, tied to technology and education companies like Pearson, prefer “widespread adoption of standardized products” so their corporate associates can sell these commodities to the nation’s school systems, parents, and students. They quoted Bill Gates, who in 2009 told a conference of state legislators: “When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well.… For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.”18 By signing on to Race to the Top, Lee and her colleagues wrote, New York State had agreed “to enshrine Common Core standards, data systems, ‘value-added’ teacher evaluations, and test-centric curriculum in our state education laws.” As a result, there has been an “erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum,” and a massive shift to “‘test score-raising’ instructional practices.”

Then, on May 1, thirty teachers at the International High School in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, refused to administer the English Language Arts Performance Assessment Exam. It was a new test, given twice a year, whose only purpose was to evaluate teachers. It served no diagnostic or educational function and, unlike the Regents Test, would not be part of students’ academic records. Teacher and MOREista Rosie Frascella said, “I’d rather take a zero, you can fail me in my evaluations, but you are not going to hurt my students.” Parents opted out 50 percent of the school’s students. Others refused the test when they saw their peers boycotting it. International High is a special public school that serves students from over thirty different countries, who speak more than twenty different languages. Parent Teresa Edwards–Lasos explained that her son “doesn’t read and write enough English yet to do the test, and it doesn’t count for his grades. Why should he take it?”19

Mulgrew/Unity issued a press statement that day, clarifying that teachers are “under a legal obligation” to administer the tests, and that the teachers’ protest “is not a union-sponsored event.”20 That month the UFT’s official publication, New York Teacher, repeated the Mulgrew/Unity line: the main problem was “the state’s botched introduction of the Common Core Learning Standards.”21 “UFT officials,” it said, “support [NYC] Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s policy of respecting the wishes of parents who opt out. Fariña warned parents, however, that opting out could affect test-based admissions to middle and high school programs. The union has cautioned teachers in the schools to leave the decision to parents and not advise them to opt out.” That August, Mulgrew mocked CCSS critics at the AFT convention, dismissing “stories about how Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Joel Klein and a flying saucer full of Martians designed these things to brainwash us all.”22

As school started in September 2014, New York Teacher noted that while an estimated “55,000 students had opted out statewide,” New York City’s Department of Education had reported “just 1,925 city students opting out.” The article also reported the happy news that Chancellor Fariña had “made clear that student promotion will no longer be based on test scores alone.” Also, new state legislation ensured “teachers who receive poor final ratings based on these Common Core tests will have their ratings recalculated using other measures, and this year’s test results will not go on student records.”23

Meanwhile, the debate was starting to change at the national level in response to the rise of Opt Out across the country. In January, Jia Lee was invited to testify before Congress, where she voiced the frustrations of teachers who know “multiple choice, high-stakes tests” are “unreliable in measuring the diversity of students’ capabilities and learning.” “The Latin root of assessment is to ‘sit alongside,'” she said. Educational decisions must be made by “‘sitting alongside’ and getting to know our students and our classrooms in deep and meaningful ways.… No corporate made multiple-choice test will give you that data.” She noted the “disproportionate number of school closures happening in the poorest communities”—all based on “using invalid metrics.” She talked about how different schools where she had worked “have become increasingly data-driven as opposed to student-driven.” There are alternatives, she pointed out. The Earth School, where she works now, “was founded on the principles of whole child education, where we, the teachers, collaborate to develop curriculum and create relevant assessments.” Finally, she asserted, as “a conscientious objector, I will not administer tests that reduce my students to a single metric…. So long as education policy continues to be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public school children, we will resist these unjust testing laws.”24

The shifting politics in D.C. had only a slight effect on Mulgrew/Unity. At the February 2015 Delegate’s Assembly, Mulgrew mentioned that politicians at the federal level might back away from mandating that student test scores be part of teacher evaluations. Although only a vague comment, even this tone was a shift from Mulgrew/Unity’s previous enthusiasm for test scores as an objective measure for evaluating teachers. At the same meeting, Mike Schirtzer raised a motion on behalf of MORE for the UFT to support the “I Refuse Movement” against high-stakes testing. The same resolution had been passed by other New York State Union of Teachers (NYSUT) locals. UFT officials shot down the motion, claiming the UFT opposes too much testing, but that teachers and parents need tests to ensure children are receiving the “education they deserve.” Mulgrew also asserted that parents support testing, but now said the UFT should oppose high-stakes tests.25 Mulgrew/Unity was not going to reverse its line on Opt Out.

In March, surprising everyone, NYSUT President Karen Magee announced that she “would urge parents at this point in time to opt out of testing.” AFT President Randi Weingarten responded cautiously, stating that teachers have the right to “give parents both the pros and cons” of opting out.26 NYSUT posted information on opting out for parents on its website, and launched robocalls to members across the state, informing them of their opt-out rights. “This is insanity,” Karen Magee said on the recorded messages, “Governor Cuomo is forcing schools to use tests as a hammer…. We are fighting back.”27

Back at the UFT, at March’s Delegate’s Assembly, as the so-called Opt Out Spring erupted, fifth-grade teacher Lauren Cohen introduced another MORE-UFT resolution against standardized testing, supporting parents’ right to opt out, and defending teachers who talk with parents about opt-out rights. It would have committed the union to using “its organizational capacity to inform members in every chapter about the right of parents/guardians to opt out their children”; to “producing and distributing opt-out literature”; and to mobilizing members and parents through “rallies, forums, and school-based protests.” Yet Mulgrew/Unity still refused to support Opt Out. Again, UFT officials spoke against it, and again delegates voted it down. MORE noted, however, that “most independent chapter leaders and delegates voted for it. The vote was so close, they had to count a second time.”28

As the Opt Out movement continued dramatically to expand across New York State, around the country, and within New York City, the UFT Delegate’s Assembly passed a resolution on April 15, 2015, “calling for the proper use of assessments to further education.” It contained a tepid statement that “the UFT supports the right of parents and guardians to choose to opt their child out of standardized tests.” The union also expressed more explicit criticism of one-size-fits-all tests, calling for “all state-mandated assessments used in New York City to be diagnostic and informative tools for educators and for the assessments to be developmentally appropriate, culturally responsive and socially relevant for students.” A proposal by Governor Cuomo “to increase the weight of standardized tests in teacher evaluation” was condemned.29

2015: Opt Out Spring in New York City

During the 2014-2015 school year, over 200,000 students in third to eighth grade across the state opted out of standardized tests. This was four times the number that had boycotted tests the previous school year and represented 20 percent of all eligible test-takers. In other words, around one out of every five students refused a test. In some districts, over 50 percent of students opted out. However, in New York City, despite efforts by parents and teachers, “Only 1.8 percent of test-takers boycotted the math tests and 1.4 percent sat out of the English tests.”30

Some might conclude that New York City is too poor and too racially diverse for Opt Out. Arne Duncan famously dismissed Opt Out as a project of “white suburban moms.”31 It is true that around twice as many students chose to opt out in the state’s richest districts (41.1 percent) as in its poorest ones (20.7 percent).32 The Network for Public Education has pointed out, however, that increasingly “people from communities of color” are participating in Opt Out. There is a growing sense that “high-stakes standardized tests” are being used “to rank, sort, label, and punish students of color,” and “to rationalize the demonization” of their schools and teachers.33 Denisha Jones, an administrator of and a Howard University professor, acknowledged in emPower magazine that Opt Out “is dominated by white middle class parents.” However, “many parents and teachers of color…have been a part of this movement from the beginning.” To the claim that standardized testing benefits students of color by helping to measure the “achievement gap,” Jones responded: “We do not need annual testing in grades 3 through 8 to show that academic achievement is tied to social class and race.” If we want to measure gaps, she wrote, “we could do so simply by testing random samples of students in elementary school, middle school, and high school.” The test prep curriculum is itself disproportionately harming students of color. In New York, she pointed out, some high-poverty schools had high opt-out rates.34

Despite its smaller scale, New York City’s Opt Out movement has gained in numbers and diversity. Over 7,900 students, across all five boroughs opted out. Six hundred students spread over twenty-five schools in the Bronx opted out, as did 450 students in over a dozen Staten Island schools. Brooklyn had the largest numbers. Nancy Cauthen of CTS, whose own son opted out at PS/IS 187 in Washington Heights, reported that “we had more members doing presentations in Spanish, going to a wider range of schools in terms of income levels.”35

The ten city schools with the highest opt-out rates displayed considerable diversity. In six of them, no race adds up to more than 50 percent of the population. Two are Title I schools, meaning over 40 percent of the students come from low-income families and qualify for free or reduced lunch. Whites were the majority in only three schools, while blacks were the largest percentage in two, and Latinos were the largest percentage in one.36

One factor that did discourage Opt Out in the city was parents’ concern that low test scores would hurt admission to intermediate, middle, or high schools. I looked up six school districts with among the highest opt-out rates in New York State.37 All six districts had only one school for each level above elementary, so the impact of test scores on admissions was not a likely parental or student concern. Parents Michael Elliot and Kemala Karmen warn that this is the “gravest impediment” to Opt Out in the city. Test scores are not supposed to be the primary or the only factor in school admission formulas. However, admitting schools do see students’ scores, and parents worry that “if the score is right there in front of the admissions team, what’s to stop them from looking and using it to make shorthand determinations about the student?” Parents therefore think of the tests that are not included in these admissions processes as preparation for the tests that do count.38

Some students and parents fear their school will be closed due to low test scores. Ninety-four city schools were labeled “Renewal Schools” by Mayor Bill de Blasio as part of a program meant to replace the previous administration’s policy of simply shutting low-scoring schools. Elliot and Karmen report that people at Renewal Schools “are scared of losing their schools completely, whether to charterization or state receivership,” and they see raising test scores “as essential for school survival.”

Another factor, of course, is Mulgrew/Unity. The UFT officialdom “cautioned teachers in the schools to leave the decision to parents and not advise them to opt out.”39 Discouraged by union officials and lacking information, most teachers surely did not even consider discussing Opt Out with parents. Opt Out leader and parent Jeanette Deutermann “was contacted by dozens of NYC teachers who were horrified by the scare tactics being used on parents in their schools to coerce them into participating in this year’s assessments.” Teachers told her that administrators were “telling parents that their children would not be promoted if they refused, or that they simply had no right to refuse.”40

Assessing the Two Sides and Planning for the Future

Even after the Opt Out Spring, Mulgrew/Unity persisted with its line of non-support for Opt Out. New York Teacher ran an editorial on May 7, 2015, calling Opt Out “Cuomo’s Parent Revolt.” The article seemed to treat Opt Out itself as a problem, commenting that “[t]he anti-testing furor” occurred “thanks in large part to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.” Still, “Standardized testing has a role to spotlight achievement gaps.” However, in an indirect acknowledgement of the impact of Opt Out, the article concluded, “Parents have sent a loud message. The governor needs to listen.”41

Mulgrew/Unity were altering their spin on Opt Out. Another article in the issue suggests why: “The Opt Out movement is strongest in suburban school districts, but the movement is gathering steam in New York City…. Parents are divided.”42 The line was changing, and some history would need to be rewritten. The definitive about-face came in the form of a one-page newsletter put out by “Michael Mulgrew and the Unity Team,” dated November 2015. Titled “Gored by the Common Core,” it asserted that “New York State bungled implementation, as ‘ed reformers’ and their hedge-fund backers twisted Common Core into a high-stakes-testing weapon of mass destruction aimed at teachers. It was part of their plan to disrupt New York’s public schools through massive layoffs, at-will employment, sham school closings and an attack on union pensions.” In a dramatic reversal of history, the flier declared, “Michael Mulgrew and the UFT/UNITY Team rallied union members, battled the Wall Street schemers and blocked the most disastrous demands of the so called ‘education reformers.'”43

This was followed by a December 5, 2015, “Action Alert” to UFT members, asking them to urge Congress to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Mulgrew claimed that “For years, the UFT, in partnership with the AFT and education advocacy groups, has been lobbying Congress to fix the problems created by the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top, particularly the mandates that tied test scores to teacher evaluation and turned our classrooms into test-prep factories.” Mulgrew was now pleased the federal government would get “out of the business of teacher evaluations” and bring “relief from the testing fixation that has increasingly narrowed the curriculum and done little to close the achievement gap.” Fortunately, “thanks to pressure from the UFT, the AFT and parents all across the country,” the new legislation “will maintain annual testing but removes the punishments for struggling schools and eliminates the federal regulation that required the use of test scores in evaluating teachers.”44

Mulgrew/Unity also issued a December 10 press release reproducing an email the president had sent to members. It announced, “Today is an historic day for public education in New York State.” Mulgrew “was able to stand at the White House…as President Obama signed legislation that bars the federal government from mandating the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers and the use of the Common Core standards.” Mulgrew was also pleased that a Cuomo-initiated “task force recognizes the need for a comprehensive multi-year plan to create matching curriculum and tests.” Finally, he celebrated that task force’s recommendation that “results from tests aligned to the current Common Core standards—as well as the updated standards—not be used as part of student and teacher evaluations before 2019.”45

Jia Lee, on the MORE-UFT website, in contrast, criticized the ESSA, pointing out that it still calls for “annual testing mandated for grades 3-8 and high school science.” The corporate test-drive “will now be continued at the state, rather than federal level.” Lee also refuted Mulgrew/Unity’s version of history. Not only did the UFT and AFT never apply “pressure” against CCSS and related tests, she wrote; “they whole-heartedly agreed to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.” Instead, “It was the grassroots organizing of parents, teachers of conscience and supporters of public education who made the Opt Out movement a force of change.”46 Dinesha Jones explained, “the testing industrial complex grew into a monster that we can no longer control. Once it became apparent how much profit could be made off of testing all children in public schools all the time, the beast was unleashed and now the only way we can stop it, is to starve the beast, deny it the data it needs to survive.”47 Opt Out—the removal of student labor, sometimes teacher labor, and parental consent—was the only force that jammed up the testing juggernaut.

Unfortunately, not much may change in New York State in the immediate future. The Governor’s Task Force’s recommendations provide that during the moratorium “teachers whose performance is measured, in part, by Common Core tests will use different local measures approved by the state.”48 These “local measures” have typically meant other standardized tests. A coalition of rank-and-file teacher groups and locals in New York State signed or endorsed a statement calling on “the leaders of NYSUT and the UFT to suspend their misleading media campaigns,” and fight to really end evaluations based on Common Core test scores. Their abuse at the local level will continue: “Schools, based on flawed growth scores, will continue to be placed into receivership and subject to autocratic control. This will happen disproportionately in schools located in economically disadvantaged Black and Brown communities.”49

In 2016, the fight to extend Opt Out in New York City is a critical task facing every parent, student, and teacher. Lack of official support from Mulgrew/Unity, and their false claim that with ESSA the battle is over, presents an obstacle. As parents Elliot and Karmen see it, in the city “a gag order threat hangs over teachers and principals. They are not allowed to speak to parents about Opt Out.”50 To illustrate the point Elliot posted a video he shot, in which Anita Skop, the Superintendent of District 15 in New York City, told a town hall meeting that teachers should not openly support Opt Out, because as public employees, “They have no right to say ‘this is how I feel.'” From the audience, CTS member and parent Janine Sopp shot back: “So why are there principals all over this state who are speaking out and supporting Opt Out? Why is it that in New York City we cannot get the same support that Long Island parents get and Long Island teachers get and that Long Island principals get?”51

Despite this hostile atmosphere, a growing number of city educators are speaking up. Jamaal Bowman, Founding Principal of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action in the Bronx, says, “I’m speaking to as many parents as possible, speaking at community meetings, just engaging parents around this conversation.” He explains, “It’s not just about the Opt Out. It’s about what’s next. We’re opting out as a form of civil disobedience, resisting something that’s not healthy or helpful to our students, long term. But we want to opt into and have a conversation around a better education system for our children, and what does that look like?”52

The good news is that the coalition of parents, rank-and-file UFT MOREistas, and “teachers of conscience” are building New York City’s Opt Out movement and have contributed to the national uprising that forced the federal and state governments to shift maneuvers. Veteran UFT dissident and MOREista Norm Scott blogged, “If you are a teacher without a union to protect you, get on your knees and thank an Opt Out parent for defending you.”53 MOREista and longtime UFT dissenter James Eterno provided a nice contrast of the two lines within the UFT when he wrote that Mulgrew/Unity “is enabling the people who are trying to destroy us by still trying to play the appeasement game…. Strong opt-out numbers give parents, students and teachers leverage in the battle to save the public schools as we know them.”54 As teacher and MOREista Emily Giles pointed out after she refused to administer a test at International High School, this is “a clear moment where the rights and concerns of parents and teachers, everything intersects, we agree with each other, we’re fighting for the same thing.”55


  1. Elizabeth Harris and Ford Fessenden, “Opt Out Becomes Anti-Test Rallying Cry in New York State,” New York Times, May 20, 2015.
  2. Ben Chapman and Stephen Rex Brown, “Michael Mulgrew defends Common Core: ‘You sick people need to deal with us and the children that we teach,'” New York Daily News, August 8, 2014. The video linked to the online article was also published on the Education Notes blog ( and the MORE Caucus YouTube channel.
  3. A term coined by longtime UFT dissident and current MOREista Norm Scott, editor of the blog Education Notes.
  4. Lois Weiner, “When ‘Teachers Want What Children Need’: Reconciling Tensions in Teachers’ Work and Teacher Unionism,” Monthly Review 65, no. 2 (June 2013): 54.
  5. Robert Fitch, “What Is Union Democracy?” New Politics 13, no. 2 (2011).
  6. Mark H. Maier, City Unions: Managing Discontent in New York City (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 132.
  7. Weiner, “When ‘Teachers Want What Children Need,'” 50.
  8. Ibid., 56.
  9. Michael Mulgrew, testimony before the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Education, United Federation of Teachers (UFT), October 29, 2013,
  10. Valerie Strauss, “Arne Duncan: ‘White Suburban Moms’ Upset Common Core Shows Their Kids Aren’t ‘Brilliant’,” Answer Sheet blog, Washington Post, November 16, 2013.
  11. Mulgrew, testimony before New York State Senate.
  12. MORE-UFT, “Support the Parent Boycott of K-2 Testing!” October 26, 2013,
  13. Geoff Decker, “Final ‘Opt-Out’ Numbers Show Movement Jumped in City,” Chalkbeat, August 19, 2014,
  14. Change the Stakes, “Number of NYC Parents Refusing State Tests Expected to Triple in 2014,” press release, March 26, 2014,
  15. Ginia Bellafante, “Standing Up to Testing,” New York Times, March 28, 2014; Erik Badia, Ben Chapman, and Corky Siemaszko, “New York Defends Standardized Tests for Students as Movement Against Them Builds,” New York Daily News, March 27, 2014; Daily News video, “Parents from several Uptown schools want a ‘Test-Free Children’s Zone,'” March 27, 2014,
  16. Ralph White, hotindiemedia channel, “Clip 06 @ Press Conference Refusing State Tests, Brooklyn, NY, 01 April 2014,” and “Brave Brooklyn Parents from Brownsville to Carroll Gardens Refuse State Tests,” April 1, 2014,; MORE-UFT, “Citywide Testing Rally – Join us on Thursday April 24th,” April 22, 2014,
  17. Teachers of Conscience, “A Letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña,” April 3, 2014,
  18. Teachers of Conscience, “Teachers’ of Conscience Position Paper: Reforms and ‘Thinking Curriculum,'” April 2014,
  19. Sarah Jaffe, “Brooklyn Teachers Strike a Blow Against Excessive Testing with May Day Boycott,” In These Times, May 12, 2014,
  20. Geoff Decker, “Risking Disciplinary action, International teachers Refuse to Administer Eval-linked Test,” Chalkbeat, May 1, 2014.
  21. Micah Landau, “Huge Rise in Number Opting Children Out of State Tests,” New York Teacher, May 14, 2014,
  22. Mulgrew, testimony before New York State Senate.
  23. Maisie McAdoo, “Scores Rise Modestly in Year 2 of Common Core Tests,” New York Teacher, September 4, 2014.
  24. Jia Lee, “Testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee Hearing on the Impact of NCLB’s Testing and Accountability,” January 21, 2015,
  25. NYCeducator, “DA Report—’I Refuse’ Resolution Killed by UFT Unity—Supporter Shut Down by Mulgrew,” February 11, 2015,
  26. Patrick Wall, “As NYSUT Endorses Testing Opt-Outs, City Union Holds Back,” Chalkbeat, April 1, 20015.
  27. Leslie Brody, “N.Y. Teachers Union Robocalls Members About State Tests,” Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2015.
  28. MORE-UFT, “Opt-Out Resolution Defeated By UFT Leadership,” March 25, 2015,
  29. UFT, “Resolution Calling for the Proper Use of Assessments to Further Education,” April 15, 2015,
  30. Elizabeth A. Harris, “20% of New York State Students Opted Out of Standardized Tests This Year,” New York Times, August 12, 2015; Patrick Wall, “Tripling in Size, City’s Opt-Out Movement Draws Members from Over 160 Schools,” Chalkbeat, August 13, 2015; Jen Kirby, “More Students are Opting Out of NY State Standardized Tests,” New York, August 12, 2015,; Geoff Decker and Patrick Wall, “New York City Scores on State Tests Inch Up as Opt-Out Movement Triples,” Chalkbeat, August 12, 2015.
  31. Strauss, “Arne Duncan.” Some Civil Rights groups—including the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza—have framed Opt Out as dangerous for people of color, voicing alarm that the movement “would sabotage important data and rob us of the right to know how our students are faring” which could “undermine efforts to improve schools for every child.” (The Leadership Conference, “Civil Rights Groups–’We oppose Anti-Testing Efforts,'” press release, May 5, 2015, See the response to the NAACP statement by the Network for Public Education and Jesse Hagopian, “Resistance to High Stakes Tests Serves the Cause of Equity in Education: A Reply to ‘We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts,'” May 5, 2015,
  32. Bill Mahoney, “Wealthiest Districts Had Higher Scores, Opt-Out Rates on State Math Exam,” Politico, August 21, 2015.
  33. Network for Public Education and Hagopian, “Resistance to High Stakes Tests.”
  34. Denisha Jones, “5 Myths about Standardized Testing and the Opt Out Movement,” emPower, June 3, 2015,
  35. Wall, “Tripling in Size, City’s Opt-Out Movement Draws New Members.”
  36. Lauren Cohen, “Opt Out Demographics NYC,” unpublished analysis based on data from the New York State Department of Education, 2015.
  37. Harris and Fessenden, “Opt Out Becomes Anti-Test Rallying Cry.”
  38. Michael Elliot and Kemala Karmen, “No Threat Left Behind: New York City Stifles Opt Out,” Huffington Post, December 16, 2015.
  39. Micah Landau, “Huge Rise in Number Opting Children Out of State Tests,” New York Teacher, May 14, 2014.
  40. Carol Burris, “Why the movement to opt out of Common Core tests is a big deal,” Washington Post, May 3, 2015.
  41. The editors, “Cuomo’s Parents Revolt,” New York Teacher, May 7, 2015.
  42. Linda Ocasio, “The Optics of Opt-Out Movement Picks Up Steam in New York City,” New York Teacher, May 7, 2015.
  43. Unity Caucus, “Gored by the Common Core,” Unity Newsletter 9 (November 2015),
  44. Quoted in Jia Lee, “The Disturbing Action Alert from Michael Mulgrew,” MORE-UFT, December 9, 2015,
  45. UFT, “UFT Response to the Signing of ESSA and Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force Findings,” press release, December 10, 2015,
  46. Jia Lee, “”The Disturbing Action Alert.”
  47. Dinesha Jones, “5 Myths about Standardized Testing and the Opt Out Movement.”
  48. Office of the Governor Andrew Cuomo, “Governor Cuomo Announces Recommendations from Common Core Task Force,” December 10, 2015,
  49. Rank and File New York, “The Call to Stand up for Students,” January 24, 2016,
  50. Elliot and Karmen, “No Threat Left Behind.”
  51. Shoot4Education, “The NYCDOE Gag Order On Educator-Parent Discussions on Testing,” Education Notes blog, December 14, 2015,
  52. Your Black Education YouTube channel, “High Stakes Testing and the Black Community: Just Say No!,” November 25, 2015.
  53. Norm Scott, “DOE Gag Order—Political Repression at the DOE—District Supt. Claims Teachers Who Discuss Opt Out Violate Law: Must See Michael Elliot Video,” Education Notes blog, December 14, 2015,
  54. James Eterno, “Can Opt-Out Really Double Without NYC Support?” Independent Community of Educators blog, November 10, 2015,
  55. Jaffe, “Brooklyn Teachers Strike a Blow Against Excessive Testing.”
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