This letter came from a mother and teacher on Long Island in New York, which has been a hotbed of resistance to the Common Core and the testing.

Newsday ran an editorial today saying that it is time to “Stop the testing tug-of-war.” The editorial insists that Common Core is needed no matter how many teachers and educators object. The editorial is accompanied by a cartoon showing a tug-of-war with Commissioner John King on one side and everyone else on the other. That is an accurate portrait. King sees no need to listen to educators with far more experience than his three years in a charter school. Nor does he care what parents or the public thinks because he rules as the King. He and the Board of Regents–with only a few honorable exceptions–forget that we live in a democracy. Newsday offers not a shred of evidence for its defense of the testing other than to insist that it is time to swallow this bitter pill. Why? Because they say so.

“Dear Dr. Ravitch,

Newsday, Long Island’s only newspaper, ran the attached editorial today. Below is my response. People have asked me to share my response with you. Many parents have said that my response clarifies many points that people have had a hard time finding amidst all of the muck that is being thrown around.

In response to “Stop the testing tug-of-war”

Upset is not the word. As a teacher, as a mother and as a taxpayer, I am filled with disgust. Let’s speak of facts from people who are in the system, rather than the hypotheses of those (the media and corporations) on the outside.

1. The “standardized tests” do not track year-to-year progress of a student. No teacher knows what students mastered, and what they did not. Last year’s assessment tested students on materials that were not available until after the assessment. It contained proprietary material that the test’s maker, Pearson, includes in curricular materials that it sells to school districts – giving purchasers an unfair advantage on the test. Next, the test’s outcome was predicted by the Commissioner weeks before the tests ever made their way to schools for administration. Finally, in the six years I have administered the assessment to my students, I have personally observed ten point swings between passing and failing – depending upon how the state wanted schools and teachers to be perceived by the public.

2. The state teacher evaluation system (APPR) will find few teachers ineffective because the majority of the score (60-80%) is derived from local measures – observation, lesson plans, parent communication, etc…. The state gave me a 1 out of 20 for my growth score for last year. If the state’s portion were used as my only evaluative tool, I would have been considered ineffective. I could accept a 1 out of 20, if the state could tell me what I did well, what I did not and which portion of that score was for my math instruction of 60 students, and which portion was for my English Language Arts (ELA) instruction of 30 students. No one has this information.

3. Standards-based evaluations have yet to be seen. During my years in business, I had objectives I was required to meet. Each year, I sat down with my supervisor and we discussed those I had met, those I had not, and how to improve. In this system, we give students assessments that have no standardized bar to pass. After they take the assessment, their teachers and parents never know what standards they have met, and which they have not.

4. The curricular materials were not available last year. This is true. This fall, the state released materials. The math modules available for my sixth grade class required me to spend two hours per day modifying them in order to eliminate spelling and grammatical errors, replace a 10-point font with a 14-point font that young children can read and see, as well as define ways to bridge gaps between what my students were able to do, and the skills they needed to have to get through the lessons. Furthermore, the first unit was comprised entirely of lengthy word problems that my students, who are reading several years behind, were unable to read.

As a mother and a teacher I ask for:

o Assessments that measure state standards, with consistent benchmarks for passing to track progress over time.
o Item analysis for parents and teachers so both parties know what students have mastered and what they have not.
o A state growth score that tells a teacher what his /her students mastered, and what they did not.

Until those three requirements are met, my own four children will not participate in the state’s fraudulent assessment system that drains valuable resources from cash-strapped school districts, promotes growth for corporations like Pearson and in its lack of transparency, erodes the teacher-student relationship.


Melissa McMullan
6th Grade Teacher
JFK Middle School

“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.” ~ Amelia Earhart