Is Co-Opted Opt Out Lurking in Your State?

Lisa Nielsen, author of the blog “The Innovative Educator,” hopes that technology will mean the end of teaching as we know it.

“Why deny that the traditional role of the teacher is needed less and less? Technology can do much of what teachers do and better….That teachers have intimate relationships with their students and learning is customized is a fantasy.”

Nielsen has been featured on the blog of Tom Vander Ark, the digital learning guru who has been pushing online learning for nearly two decades and was instrumental in the development of the Ten Elements of High Quality Digital Learning, now a key feature of ALEC’s state report cards.

“The explosion of information and interactivity should have been an educational game-changer….but the game has been very slow to change,” Nielsen laments, just as Vander Ark did in this article.

Nielsen, now Director of Digital Engagement at the New York City Department of Education, also showcases Vander Ark’s work on her blog and often highlights information from iNACOL – the group that openly admits it is offering a Trojan horse.

Like Vander Ark and his Corporate Opt Out allies, Nielsen seems to believe that in order to reform education into the highly profitable  digital, “personalized” system, we must do away with the big end of the year test.

Several years ago, Nielsen set up Opt-Out Facebook groups in all fifty states, and now serves as an admin in many of these groups.

On Nielsen’s main Opt Out page, she informs parents that they can “join others interested in opting out in your state in two ways: 1) Type in the search: Opt out of State Standardized Tests — Your State i.e. Opt Out of State Standardized Tests – Ohio 2) Go to the page url: i.e.”

“As more and more parents get on board and take back control of what is best for their children, new possibilities will arise,” she writes.

There are, of course, many other ways to find others interested in opting out, and Nielsen’s understanding of Opt Out is fundamentally at odds with the message most parents, teachers, and students are trying to send by boycotting the state tests. Fed up with the corporate profiteering of our public schools and the insidious role of testing in this takeover, many embrace opting out as a way to protest the invasion.

Nielsen, on the other hand – like many others – is helping to orchestrate further corporate invasion on the backs of a true grassroots movement.

Beware those who would take you from the frying pan to the fire.


Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

11 thoughts on “Is Co-Opted Opt Out Lurking in Your State?”

  1. I was intrigued by your article title, and then so very glad to be made aware of the complications now being added to the Opt Out Of Testing movement. I am not unaware that these days every single movement or seed of resistance can be so quickly co-opted by those who use technology to their own advantage, and I so often worry that I am being misinformed. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this information. As a parent, I am opposed not just to the big end of year testing, but to the entire data-driven instruction model that will force our children to access their education primarily through technology that will track their every move and consume vast financial resources that could otherwise be spent on things like art, music, libraries, extra-curriculars and facilities. I have no intention of allowing the opt out movement to unwittingly drive parents into “personalized” learning. My fight is against that, too. I’ve opted my child out of not just the state tests, but benchmark testing, Google Apps for Education, EdTPA filming…whatever type of data they’re collecting for use by entities other than her classroom teacher, I’m opting out of it. Do not try to steal the role of educator from teachers. That is wrong! It’s really important for people on state opt out pages to take a moment to see if the admins of their Facebook groups are local activists who are in the trenches with the parents and teachers. If not, then set up pages with local admins who believe that bricks and mortar public schools have a place in America’s future and keep on fighting the good fight.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. CONFUSING: I first learned of Lisa Nielsen when she was hired by NYC and started promoting “Bring Your Own Device” to school, around the time Mayor DeBlasio lifted the city-wide cellphone ban and allowed schools to determine their own policies. She set up a “BYOD” group on Google+ which offered support and options to tech-savvy teachers considering devices in schools that allow it.

    She didn’t openly discuss opt-out, which would presumably be prohibited as an employee of the NYC DOE, but in 2013, her face was plastered over the NY Post for having anti-testing Facebook pages that denounced Common Core and encouraged people to sign the petition of “fearless principal” Carol Burris.


    I also exist in an awkward space as a teacher that believes in expanding technology in the classroom. Particularly for disconnected youth, I feel schools miss opportunities to reach kids enamored with technology and I think online courses will have a place in K-12. But then I learned about the way corporate reformers, led by Jeb Bush, intend to push technology into legislation, turning over our kids to the highest bidder, replacing teachers, data mining, etc.

    And this is where it gets confusing – Nielsen’s 2012 opt-out pages seem legit, giving out lots of pertinent information. Is it wrong to promote iNACOL links? Absolutely, they are the bad guys. And some of the links on Nielsen’s site “The Innovative Educator” promote other reformy reformers. She has written for the WSJ, which is owned by nefarious anti-teacher propagandist Rupert Murdock, but on the other hand it gave her a big bullhorn and engaged warring sides over common ground.

    Her agenda seems to be increasing the use of tech in classroom learning, which overlaps sometimes with corporate reformers looking to centralize control and cash in, but she also has always seemed to advocate against tests in favor of portfolio-based, student-driven, community-driven, or Montessori models. So she is a confusing figure, and for that reason I believe the author should reach out to her for comment, get her side and share it here. I look forward to a fascinating follow up!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A healthy discourse involves two sides. Blogs can be for personal opinions, but when you disparage someone and not let them share their views it’s just cowardly. Be better than that.


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