Sunday, April 13, 2014

ApriI 2014 update on the NYS Assessments

Here we are in the midst of testing season for our elementary and middle schools.  Parents and educators are raising their voices across New York State and the nation against the harmful impact of high-stakes testing.  Here are several good reads about the “testing season” in New York.

Test secrecy
A NYC principal discusses the problems with this year’s ELA tests:
The problems with a “Secret Test”

THE NUMBERS: A database of test “refusals” from across NYS:  Over 33,000 and counting:

Yes, Indeed: Test boycotters are the new “Revolutionaries”

A Pediatrician and his 13 year old daughter react to Common Core testing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Must Reads & View

Amazing piece from the New Yorker:

If your child is successful on the state assessments you might think he or she has nothing to worry about.  Not so fast.  All kids are hurt by the pressure from high-stakes testing.

Opt Out / Refusal FAQ video from NYS Allies for Public Education:

Touching piece from Change the Stakes

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Opt Out of NYS Standardized Tests?

From my friends at Change the Stakes.

1. When students, teachers and schools are rewarded for high test scores and punished for low ones, the tests themselves become the focus of education. Class time is devoted to test prep, which robs children of their natural desire to learn.

2. The state exams test only two subjects: English and math. That encourages schools to give less time to social studies, music, art, world languages, physical education, and even science. 

3. High-stakes testing undermines important learning. In its 2011 report to Congress, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed America’s test-based accountability systems and concluded, “There are little to no positive effects of these systems overall on student learning and educational progress.”

4. State exams are loaded with poorly written, ambiguous questions. A recent statement signed by 545 New York State Principals noted that many teachers and principals could not agree on the correct answers. 

5. Testing is part of school privatization. Common Core-backer Bill Gates and Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have promoted national standards and tests by touting that they “will unleash powerful market forces” and create a national market for vendors.
6. While New York State is paying Pearson millions of dollars, it is massively underfunding NY public schools. This is part of a national trend: states cut funding to public schools while pouring millions into new computer systems designed for Common Core tests.

7. Despite its high costs, high-stakes testing is designed to make education more “efficient” by machine-sorting students and teachers. Teachers deemed excellent are likely to be “rewarded” with higher class sizes. By focusing on tests and technology, the state aims to cut labor costs.

8. High-stakes tests don’t help students learn or teachers teach. The results come too late for that. The tests are largely punitive: they punish teachers, students, and schools that don’t perform. Low test scores can be used to hold good students back and rate strong teachers as “ineffective” despite high ratings by their principals.

9. High-stakes testing undermines teacher collaboration. Teachers are judged on a curve, which discourages them from helping students in another teacher’s class.

10. High-stakes testing encourages “teaching to the middle.”  Educators are pressured to focus on the “2” and “3” students, where the most progress can be made on scores, and ignore the 4s (where gains aren’t measured) and 1s (whose needs are too great to raise scores easily).

(note #11 applies to New York City only. Some large city school districts have selective HS/MS admissions)
11. Many middle school admissions offices are ignoring state tests. Many NYC principals signed a letter last year stating that they would no longer be considering test scores. Most schools already have practices in place for admitting students who don’t have scores. 

12. One-size-fits-all tests punish and discourage students who are already vulnerable
, including students of color, English-Language Learners, children with special needs, and students from families living in poverty.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Field Tests: Boycott this loss of learning.

What is a Field Test?

Spring 2014 Field Tests


High School Level Exams

Grades 3-8 ELA, Math, & Science (coming soon- please forward me the information if you have it)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


From the leader of Long Island Opt Out whose advocacy I admire.  Proud to partner with her and others to form the NYS Allies for Public Education in summer of 2013.

Quote from Jeanette Brunelle Deutermann of Long Island Opt-out:
"I've seen and been asked a lot of questions recently about what to say to someone who says "my kid is fine". It isn't just a question of how many kids are doing well and how many are not, and what the right number is of each. It's about "what do you want your child's classroom to look like?" Do we want rote memorizing, fast paced, test driven, test prepping, uninspired, stress filled classrooms? Or do we want teachers who can create magic in their rooms; being free to inspire our children, use creative play, project based, interactive, authentic learning environments. One in which teachers love what they are teaching and students find a love of learning. Babies can be trained to read when they are two if you use flash cards and drill the hell out of them. But is a 24 month old who can read words really a success story? Or is a baby who learns through curiosity and exploration a success? Again we have to define what success in our schools means.

Is not crying while doing HW the new measure of success? Sitting for over 10 hours of testing without having stomach pains and anxiety- success? Or do we want more? Do we want to see our kids classrooms filled with projects and fantasy. Finding the love of reading from fairy tales and fiction classics. Where social and emotional development is just as, or even more important as a test score. A classroom where our 8 year olds find a love of science that carries with them throughout life. Where social studies can take them right into the time period they are learning about. Where they are challenged rather than frustrated. We need to raise our expectations; and you need to ask yourselves "does my child's classroom look the way I want it to look?" If not, what are you going to do about it?

This is why we opt out.  To save our children's education.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Video: Opt Out FAQ's

Excellent video from our friends at New York Allies for Public Education that explains many issues surrounding the opt out and refusal process in New York State.  Share widely!

What is a high-stakes test?

Why do schools emphasize two subjects, ELA and math over a well-rounded education for our children?

This madness began with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law in 2001.  NCLB mandated state testing to require yearly standardized assessments in ELA and math.  NCLB put pressure on schools to raise test scores, show improvement on a yearly basis, and included the impossible goal of getting all students to reach a proficient level.  If schools did not meet these goals they could face various penalties from negative labels that restricted Title I spending to outright school closure.

NCLB began the era of high-stakes testing in NYS.  When school ranking, labels, and punishments are tied to student test scores student assessment becomes corrupted and stakes are raised. School administrators will put pressure on teachers to raise test scores.  Which subjects are tested? ELA and math.  So schools under the gun for low test scores will shift their focus to what is tested and reduce or ignore other subjects.  Test prep and skills are in, a well-rounded education is out. Pressure works its way down from administration to teachers to students to "perform" better on the assessments. 

Along came Race to the Top in 2009 which created a "competition" between states to receive more funding.  New York State won this race and received just under $700 million dollars from the US Department of Education.  As a result of Race to the Top, New York State had to adopt several policies, including teacher and principal evaluation using student standardized assessment scores.  As educator evaluations are tied to test scores, the stakes are raised to a greater level.  More pressure is on school officials, teachers and of course our children.

The state assessments are not designed to diagnose our children's academic strengths and weaknesses.  The tests are also not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness. Yet, because of the "high-stakes" for adults and schools, our children suffer.