To the Editor:
In April, public school students in grades 3-8 endured three days of abusive, developmentally-inappropriate ELA standardized tests. The testing industry and its political partners surely benefited: taxpayers are in the middle of a 10-year, $100 million payment to non-teachers for test questions. Otherwise, the tests hurt everything we do in public education.
Parents can react by opting their children out of the grades 3-8 math tests, which will start on May 2. Opting-out is the only way parents have chipped away in the work to replace harmful testing with teaching and learning. Teaching and learning is what students deserve, taxpayers expect, and society needs.
The New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) is a grassroots coalition of over 50 groups that advocate for commonsense and research-based work on behalf of public school students, parents and taxpayers. NYSAPE collected anecdotal reports from teachers, principals, parents and students across the state during April’s testing. A summary of those findings follows:
• Many students tested for five hours per day.
• Once again NYSED failed to maintain accurate data on the amount of time spent on testing.
• Some schools allowed students to test past the end of the school day, in direct violation of the NYSED directive to end testing by dismissal.
• The NYS ELA tests continue to contain reading passages three and four years above grade level, including archaic texts with heavy use of antiquated language and syntax (for example, a passage from Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener)
• Tests continue to require prior knowledge that likely advantages students from higher socio-economic or suburban backgrounds.
• Many multiple choice questions in the younger grades had two plausible answers, causing confusion and anxiety.
• The most challengingly constructed response questions were given on day three of testing, when students were most fatigued.
• Many students lost recess and special area classes such as PE, music and art due to untimed testing.
• Many districts needed to hire dozens of substitute teachers to help proctor exams for test read-aloud accommodation.
• Around the state, schools resorted to bribing students with field trips, pizza parties, ice cream, and candy to take the tests.
• Despite threats from school administrators and misleading information from Commissioner Elia regarding the 2017 tests, opt out rates appear to remain steady with many districts reporting increases.
Parents should send in their math refusal letter today. Opt-out resources are available on the NYSAPE website (www.nysape.org).