Parents, school boards mount push vs. 'out of control' standardized tests
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As New York's students prepare to take state tests later this month, state leaders are being flooded with letters from Hudson Valley parents who oppose standardized testing.
In Pleasantville, School Board members are setting up tables at art and science fairs to encourage parents to sign letters opposing what they call "high-stakes testing." The school district's first such effort -- at Bedford Road school -- resulted in 166 signed letters, School Board President Lois Winkler said.
The Pleasantville push is part of a broader campaign in a dozen Westchester County school districts aimed at rallying opposition to standardized testing. The campaign has drawn support from school boards and from PTAs.
Anti-test sentiment has been mounting for years, but Winkler said people have "just had it" with testing this year.
"It's the sheer number of tests and the fact that the results of tests are going to be used for teacher evaluations. And that they're ending up requiring pretests and post-tests for students," Winkler said. "The stress levels on everybody are going up."
Opponents focus on the fact that this year's tests will question students on the newly implemented Common Core curriculum -- a course of study in use in New York schools only since September. Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said teachers have been aware of the changes since 2010.
"We are now three years into a statewide effort to provide teachers with the professional development and other supports they need to make the transition to the Common Core," Tompkins said. "It's hard to understand how some can claim that they are being caught unprepared for the change. It's equally difficult to understand why anyone would suggest that the change is happening too quickly for teachers and students, when the exact opposite is true."
According to the New York State United Teachers union, 81 percent of the parents reached with a recent survey said their children haven't had enough time to prepare for this month's tests. What's more, the union said, 88 percent of parents believed the tests should not be used to evaluate either students or teachers.
"The parents are right in complaining," Assemb. Thomas Abinanti (D-Greenburgh) said. "We're hoping that if we make enough noise that state ed will recognize that their goal is fine but the manner of implementation has to be rational."
The New Paltz School District board in Ulster County recently passed a resolution opposing high-stakes testing. Parents and school leaders there are encouraging students and their parents to wear green on testing day to show their solidarity with the movement. About a dozen parents are also "opting out," bringing their children to Albany for some activism, instead of sending them to school to take the tests.
Bianca Tanis, a New Paltz mother of boys in grades 3 and 6, respectively, said she's encouraging parents to take some sort of action.
"We want to make sure that [the state Education Department commissioner] knows how distressed we are," said Kelly Chiarella, the leader of the Westchester Putnam PTA, which is participating in the anti-testing letter-writing campaign. "Pretesting, post-assessments, Common Core -- it's just out of control now."