State Releases Spring Test Scores: Parents and Teachers Unimpressed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 15, 2014

Press contact: changethestakespress@gmail.com

Parents and Teachers are Unimpressed with the State’s Release of Spring Test Scores

Scores are manipulated and meaningless, distracting attention from the real needs of NYC schools

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has spent the summer putting out a series of public relations press releases, sharing some of the grade 3-8 test items, and building suspense around yesterday’s release of test scores. Change the Stakes, a group of parents and educators who seek to end high-stakes testing, see NYSED’s annual release of test scores as a ritual designed to distract from the true harm that the Common Core and high-stakes tests are causing to the public school system. The tests have reduced school curriculum to basic literacy and math and endless test prep.

Meanwhile, NYSED ignores the real problems: Under the leadership of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and State Education Commissioner John King, NY State public schools have become the most segregated in the country. School budgets have been allowed to plummet as NYSED has uncritically accepted federal Race to the Top (RTTT) funds, which require support for high-stakes tests. RTTT also requires the use of student scores to measure teacher performance and opens the way for charter schools and the privatization of public education. In their purported quest to close the “achievement gap,” Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner King have completely denied the need to address the vast poverty among New York State’s public school students, a third of whom reside in NYC. The term “achievement gap” should more accurately be called the “opportunity gap.”

Teachers have no flexibility because the insistence on Common Core testing demands a lockstep schedule that makes authentic learning impossible. The emphasis on “college and career readiness” has drained the vitality from a well-rounded and developmentally appropriate humanities-based education. As a result, students are being poorly prepared for the complexities they will face throughout their lives.

“The curriculum continues to be narrowed. There is no time or money left for the arts, sports, or anything that is not on the test. NYSED claims that the Common Core testing is making teaching ‘more rigorous.’ In fact, the Common Core tests are dumbing down our children’s education,” says Janine Sopp, parent of a 6th grader in Brooklyn. Katie Lapham, teacher and parent, says, “Until we end the practice of evaluating teachers with these Common Core tests, our children will be confined to test prep all year long.”

The test scores are not true indicators of learning. They do not measure students’ strengths and abilities and cannot inform instruction. The tests only measure students’ facility as test takers.

The tests should be released, so that their weaknesses are not hidden from teachers and the public. But whether they are released or not, they will continue to waste money and time. Incredibly, the tests indicate that roughly two thirds of the students in NY State are failing. This is an outlandish assertion. And what’s worse, it hides the fact that there is a much smaller number of students who do need help but can’t get it because testing eats up all resources.

The state wants to focus discussion on its claims that scores are improving. Discussion should focus on a different set of numbers. We should follow the money and see how the proponents of the Common Core are major corporations who rake in profits from school taxes and dictate educational policy to politicians, who depend on their financial support. Stand with our public schools and our children, and say “enough” to Common Core testing. It’s time to address the real problems. Parents have not been listened to. They are not looking for new and improved tests. They want to see their children love learning, succeed in school, and be socially and emotionally prepared to face the future.

Change the Stakes (changethestakes.org) is a group of parents and educators working together to end high stakes testing.

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