Rebecca Mead has written a brilliant blog post for “The New Yorker” explaining why parents plan to opt their children out of NewYork’s Common Core testing in 2014.
It Is as succinct an explanation as I have read, and it is vivid because the writer is a parent in a progressive public school that teaches students to think for themselves. The principal of the Brooklyn New School has spoken out against the cruel and unusual demands of the tests but she must comply, by law.
The parents, however, have a special interest: their children.
“Anna Allanbrook, the principal of the Brooklyn New School, a public elementary school in Carroll Gardens, has long considered the period of standardized testing that arrives every spring to be a necessary, if unwelcome, phase of the school year. Teachers and kids would spend limited time preparing for the tests. Children would gain familiarity with “bubbling in,” a skill not stressed in the school’s progressive, project-based curriculum. They would become accustomed to sitting quietly and working alone—a practice quite distinct from the collaboration that is typically encouraged in the school’s classrooms, where learners of differing abilities and strengths work side by side. (My son is a third grader at the school.) Come the test days, kids and teachers would get through them, and then, once the tests were over, they would get on with the real work of education.
“Last spring’s state tests were an entirely different experience, for children and for teachers. Teachers invigilating the exams were shocked by ambiguous test questions, based, as they saw it, on false premises and wrongheaded educational principles. (One B.N.S. teacher, Katherine Sorel, eloquently details her objections on WNYC’s SchoolBook blog.) Others were dismayed to see that children were demoralized by the relentlessness of the testing process, which took seventy minutes a day for six days, with more time allowed for children with learning disabilities. One teacher remarked that, if a tester needs three days to tell if a child can read “you are either incompetent or cruel. I feel angry and compromised for going along with this.” Another teacher said that during each day of testing, at least one of her children was reduced to tears. A paraprofessional—a classroom aide who works with children with special needs—called the process “state-sanctioned child abuse.” One child with a learning disability, after the second hour of the third day, had had enough. “He only had two questions left, but he couldn’t keep going,” a teacher reported. “He banged his head on the desk so hard that everyone in the room jumped.”
Mead gets it. Read the whole article. Testing has spun out of control. It is consuming time and resources needed for teaching and learning.
This can’t continue. When little children are tested more than those who take the bar, you must know something is terribly wrong.
The school asks its fifth-grade students: “What are we willing to stand up for?”
The parents will answer this spring, not only at the Brooklyn New School, but in many schools and districts and states.