A comment on the blog:
I attended a forum at Scarsdale HS last night (4/30) w panelists Regent Judith Johnson, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, and Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Hagerman.
Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Rosa attended but did not participate.
All panelists spoke to the problems with the state tests and there was general consensus that the tests have no value as a measure of students’ abilities or teacher competencies, that they are a burden to students because test prep takes time away from project-based and other learning and are unnecessarily stressful for children, and are a financial burden to districts.
One of the most interesting comments from Judith Johnson was in response to questions from members of the audience who expressed frustration at not being heard by Albany.
Ms Johnson firmly insisted that parents and opponents to current testing and CC ARE being heard.
HOWEVER, she said that what hasn’t been put forward – what hasn’t be heard – are clear, unified demands and requests for specific changes.
Can you lead us forward in that?
What specific requests should individuals and groups demand of the the Regents, state DOE, Cuomo, and federal government?
Ms Johnson also expressed serious concerns that the State Regents do not having sufficient support staff-experiencing this already and only thirty days into the position. One can certainly see how that could limit her activities and scope of influence. Any thoughts?
There’s much more that I’m leaving out. The event will air on Scarsdale public access TV in next few days.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for writing. Your first question is whether the people in Albany are aware of your concerns. The answer is yes and no. They definitely notice when the parents of nearly 200,000 children refused to take the state test.
Governor Cuomo heard you. He pronounced that you shouldn’t be worried because the tests are “meaningless” and won’t count against your children; they will be meaningful only for teachers, who will be punished if the scores don’t go up by whatever metric the state chooses.
Merryl Tisch heard you. She offered to delay the stakes attached to the testing for a year for some districts, on a case-by-case basis, or to exempt high-performing districts like yours.
But they didn’t actually hear you because they didn’t hear what parents were saying when they opted out. They are not offering to disconnect the scores from teacher evaluations. They are not agreeing to reduce the stakes attached to the tests. They are not offering to review the validity or reliability of the tests. They are not offering any substantive change at all, at best just a delay.
They don’t understand that pressuring teachers to get higher scores–or else–changes what happens in the classroom. It shifts the emphasis from inquiry to drill. It makes test-taking skills more important than thinking skills. It narrows the curriculum only to what is tested. It is contrary to good education, which is why private schools don’t follow the state’s lead. I think it is accurate to say that the leaders and decision-makers in Albany, including the Governor, his staff, most of the Regents, and those at the top of the State Education Department are wedded to an agenda that confuses test scores with education. Tests are a measure not the goal of education. There is also, at the highest level, an inexplicable contempt for the work of teachers and principals. And your children suffer for their ill-conceived policies.
Yes, there are specific, clear demands, voiced by New York State Allies for Public Education. Among other things, they demand “a dramatic reduction of testing in grades 3rd – 8th,” and a call to Congress to shift from annual testing to grade span testing. They also demand an independent review of the state’s standards and a “public and transparent process” for selecting the new state commissioner of education. They say, do not release any personally identifiable data about any student to any third party without parental consent. Check out their list of demands.
I would add a few more.
Reduce the time required for state testing (currently 7-10 hours) to not more than 2 hours, one for reading, one for math.
Convene a task force of independent and qualified testing experts to review the validity and reliability of the state tests.
Release the state tests after they are administered so that parents, teachers, and researchers can learn from them.
Provide teachers with information specific to each child so they will know how to help them do better in the future.
These are clear and specific demands. I think they fairly represent the views of those who refused the tests. If the Governor, the Legislature, and the Regents refuses to change their agenda, more parents will opt out next time. Ideally, there will come a day when no one takes these tests, which have not been reviewed for their validity and reliability and which are kept secret from teachers and parents. How many pineapples might be hidden in the questions? Why shouldn’t teachers learn what students got right or wrong?
I hope this is helpful.