Taking Back Our Schools/Save Our Schools rally in New York City – May 17, 2014
“Children First. Always.” is the motto of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). I rage inside whenever my eyes happen to fall upon this misappropriated phrase – a leftover from the Bloomberg reign – on the NYCDOE’s home page.
It is at once laughable and insulting to make such a claim as New York State education policy puts corporations, like Pearson, first. Next week Pearson, together with its bedfellow, the New York State Education Department (NYSED), will begin administering stand-alone field tests. The official assessment window is June 2-11, and the administration of these tests follows a flurry of test-taking that has left both students and educators in New York City burned out and fed up. Is this what ed deformers mean by grit? Here’s what our elementary and middle schools have endured since April 1, 2014:
- Pearson’s Common Core ELA assessment (three days)
- Pearson’s Common Core math assessment (three days)
- Four-part Common Core-aligned NYSESLAT (NYS English as a Second Language Achievement Test) – speaking, listening, reading comprehension and writing (for English-language learners ONLY)
- Measures of Student Learning (MOSL) ELA Performance Assessment for schools that chose this as their local measure for teacher effectiveness rating purposes
- Measures of Student Learning (MOSL) Math Performance Assessment for schools that chose this option as their local measure for teacher effectiveness rating purposes
- New York State Science Performance Test (grades 4 & 8 only)
- New York State Science Written Section (grades 4 & 8 only)
- Chinese Reading assessment (for students in grades 3-12 receiving bilingual or dual language instruction in Chinese)
- Spanish Reading assessment (for students in graders 3-12 receiving bilingual or dual language instruction in Spanish)
- CTB/McGraw-Hill Mathematics Benchmark Assessment Aligned to NYC Core Curriculum Option Go Math! (optional, not all schools participated)
- CTB/McGraw-Hill English Language Arts Benchmark Assessment (optional, not all schools participated)
- ELA and Math portfolio assessments for potential holdover students
Change the Stakes, a New York City-based parent and teacher group that opposes high-stakes testing, has done an admirable job of raising awareness of the detriments of field testing. They report that 1,682 NYC public schools have been assigned to field test either the math or ELA test, and another 103 are signed up for the science field test. The following information about field tests is published on their website.
- Field tests are an integral part of high-stakes-testing, a system that narrows curriculum and dampens children’s natural enthusiasm for learning. When the stakes are unreasonably high, it encourages widespread teaching to the test and cheating, wastes ever-shrinking resources, and results in inaccurate measures of student performance.
- Field tests provide misleading data. Children aren’t motivated to do well on “trial” exams.
- Reputable researchers spell out their aims, invite participation, and pay subjects. This is not the case with test publishers. Children provide free labor for product-testing, while their parents and even their schools are kept in the dark.
- No child is required to take a field test, and opting out will in no way harm their record, their teachers, or their school.
- Publishers of field tests see them as essential for creating standardized exams. Without field tests, they argue, there would be no exams. So opting out is a powerful way to demonstrate your opposition to high-stakes testing.
Our students are suffering. As a result of excessive testing and low-quality Common Core curricula, we are seeing an increased level of behavior problems in our classrooms. More and more students are shutting down, refusing to do work, particularly at this time of year. I support Change the Stake’s call to opt-out of the upcoming stand-alone field tests. The New York City Department of Education should do the same. They truly need to put our children first.