Some Public School Students Will Sit Out State Tests This Week in Protest

Categories: Schools

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"These tests are harmful. They do nothing but stress us out and take away precious learning time. They don't make learning fun, they are all-consuming. ... We do not learn from these tests. Do we not go to school to learn?"

Owen Hotaling, a freckled fifth grader in a sweatshirt and a bright red knit cap, read his open letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a rapid but clear voice. His highly appreciative audience: about 60 parents, educators, and activists in the auditorium of the Earth School, PS 364 in the East Village, on April 14, two days before statewide standardized tests were to begin.

There are reports of testing opt-outs at 22 public schools in all five boroughs this week. Parents cite stress on students, the diversion of instructional time and resources for weeks of test prep, poor alignment with the curriculum, what they see as inappropriate use of the test scores to evaluate teachers and schools, and most recently, New York state's sharing of student data with the Gates Foundation-funded nonprofit startup InBloom.

"It happened almost overnight," said Rain Lanning, the mother of a third grader and a fifth grader at the Earth School. "All of a sudden we realized it was so simple--you could just not take them." Parents of 33 children at the Earth School, comprising 20 percent of the small student body, have submitted letters signaling their intention to legally opt out of testing this year. This is a significant number because 95 percent participation is required in order for the school to be judged on its "adequate yearly progress" under No Child Left Behind.

Small testing boycotts have cropped up across the country. The Facebook group Long Island Opt-Out has 7,500 members.

At Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, the teaching staff voted unanimously not to administer the tests. Jesse Hagopian, lead organizer of the Garfield boycott, flew out to New York City to speak at Earth School and brought the small crowd to its feet. "This happened because one teacher said, 'I refuse to let this test label me and my students a failure,'" he said. Noting that Bill Gates attended Lakeside, a private school down the road from Garfield that does not administer the state tests, he said, "Their whole education reform system--all of it runs on these test scores! We're denying them the lifeblood of their corporate reforms. These tests are not for their kids--these tests are for your kids."

No matter how much parents may want to sit their children out, many worry about consequences, especially in the all-important fourth and seventh grades, when scores are considered for admission into competitive middle and high schools. But the blog New York City Public School Parents offers some reassurance. According to the Department of Education's chief tester, Shael Polakow-Suransky, children who do not take the state tests can opt for a portfolio review, and most middle and high schools have discretion to consider applications without test scores, for example, from homeschoolers.

Whatever the ultimate size of the boycott this year, disquiet about standardized testing will remain a live political issue. MORE, the "social justice caucus" of the United Federation of Teachers, organized Sunday's meeting and is running Julie Cavanagh as the underdog candidate to succeed Randi Weingarten as president of the nation's largest teachers' union. Cavanagh, a special education teacher in Red Hook and the charismatic and media-friendly director of the documentary The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, has clearly identified standardized testing as an issue that unites parents and teachers.

"The testing boycott movement is happening!" she told the audience. "The movement of social justice to take back our communities is happening! Parents and teachers are leading the way, and unions better get behind them."

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19 comments
dwi1645
dwi1645

@villagevoice NYCDOE tell principals to use corporal punishment as way to oust teachers. Principal w/Bloomberg Admin ties fires teacher w/MS

france
france

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130416102122.htm

"Southeastern Louisiana University Education Professor James D.  Kirylo, a former Louisiana Elementary School Teacher of the Year, said many in positions of power are so focused on raising test scores, they lose sight of the ultimate goal of whether or not children are learning.

'As a result, there is no authentic concern about addressing the social economic, emotional or psychological disposition children bring to school; no care in finding solutions for over-crowded classrooms, and no care whether these tests are appropriate,' he explained. 'There is only one goal in mind, and that is to win; winning means high test scores, monetary awards and recognition.' "

jlee7603
jlee7603

Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner King, President Obama and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates and his hedge fund buddies all boycott high stakes standardized by sending their children to private schools that do not administer these tests! These parents are fighting against the high stakes nature of these tests- which, if you do not know, are not taken by the children of the very people behind them. The stakes attached to these tests perpetuate inequities in our public school system and society and foster a compliance based system. If they were so great for the future of our children, they should enforce them in the private schools their children attend, but they won't. You know why? They're not conducive to a sound and rich education!

jehkul
jehkul

Yay! Lets celebrate kids refusing to learn and parents reinforcing lazy habits. Im fine with it. My kids are going to need morons to perform menial tasks for them while they enjoy the fruits of an arduous education. But make no mistake, when your kid is a dolt stuck in a dead-end job, the fault rests squarely on your shoulders for teaching them that quitting is acceptable. Utterly and completely pathetic.

gmergenthaler
gmergenthaler

@jehkulActually, the movement against standardized testing is FOR better learning—through hands-on projects, field trips, discussion, and analytical thinking/writing. It is precisely the teaching to these tests that is dumbing-down education. If you have had any involvement in the school year of a third to eight grader in a public school, you would know that as “testing time” approaches, interesting, individualized learning comes to a halt. This testing mentality is what will make these children hate learning and end up in dead-end jobs.

gmergenthaler
gmergenthaler

@jehkulActually, the movement against standardized testing is FOR better learning—through hands-on projects, field trips, discussion, and analytical thinking/writing. It is precisely the teaching to these tests that is dumbing-down education. If you have had any involvement in the school year of a third to eighth grader in a public school, you would know that as “testing time” approaches, interesting, individualized learning comes to a halt. This testing mentality is what will make these children hate learning and end up in dead-end jobs.

cselah
cselah

@jehkul   These tests are exactly what lead our children into performing menial tasks for dead-end jobs.  We will no longer sit back and allow our children to be robbed of meaningful lessons that stimulate creativity, innovation and critical thinking.  We want our kids to be outside the box thinkers so they'll never even consider quitting.  They will be able to create their own jobs rather than work for your kids.  We will not allow you, jehkul, to control the language around what it means to opt-out from high stakes tests.  We outright reject your efforts to try to change our narrative. 

zappy
zappy

@jehkul, Eight-year olds are taking tests longer than SATs, LSATs, and the Series 7 exam. Is that arduous enough for you? How about the fact that starting last year, field test questions are embedded along with operational questions, a.k.a., real questions--also starting in third grade. In 2011 the third graders had 4 hours of testing over 4 days. Now it's 7 hours over 6 days. Also there are questions above grade level, which also "don't count" in student scores but will presumably be available to the State of NY to compare how kids do before and after the Common Core curriculum is fully implemented. So the children are expected to perform well with all these obstacles in their way?  And teachers are to be rated via the results of tests--a complete misuse of the results, according to many statisticians/psychometricians. High-stakes are needlessly being attached to these tests. The children are the guinea pigs. If you feel so strongly about this, perhaps you could use more persuasive vocabulary.

BetsyS48
BetsyS48

@anya1anya "Julie Cavanagh as the underdog candidate to succeed Randi Weingarten as president of the nation's largest teachers' union.

anya1anya
anya1anya

@BetsyS48 if she wins, she will succeed Weingarten, who once held that spot and is now the most powerful/best known teachers' union ldr.

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