IS TESTING EDUCATIONAL OR POLITICAL?

In a grassroots effort, more than 1,000 parents whose children attend 228 schools (in every borough and in 31 of the city’s 32 school districts) signed a letter asking for a meeting with NYC’s Mayor and Chancellor to discuss their concerns about the absence of free and open dialogue around high-stakes testing in city schools, their request for engagement yielded no response.

Now, in an indication of the NYCDOE’s true regard for parents and parent rights, a superintendent has been caught on videotape telling families at a public forum that their children’s teachers and principals cannot share their honest and expert opinions of the state’s standardized testing program. The superintendent claimed that such speech would be “political,” and therefore prohibited by the state since educators are public employees.

“To form my own opinions about the state tests,” said Tim Dubnau, a District 15 parent who attended the panel, “I need to hear what my children’s principal and teachers think. They know my kids, and they have actual on-the-ground experience seeing how testing affects children and what goes on in the classroom.”

Parent Kemala Karmen sees this as a failure of the NYCDOE to prioritize the interests of children and their families. “By silencing educators, the NYCDOE and NYSED are making a conscious choice to deny parents information. If not, why did the de Blasio/Farina DOE refuse to amend the ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’ to include the right of test refusal, even though the City Council voted unanimously in Spring 2015 to insert right to opt out language in the bill?” District 15 parent Johanna Perez makes clear why this omission is so crucial, “My sister was the only one in her Bronx school who had even heard of opt out–and that was only because I told her about the movement to opt out in her niece’s D15 school. Many parents, especially those in communities of color, aren’t even aware that they have a right to refuse!”

When a superintendent of schools says that teachers, as representatives of the state, cannot talk about the educational value of the tests that they administer to children, we have to question who exactly is being political. When Chancellor Farina and Mayor de Blasio define a conversation between parents and teachers about an educational matter as political, parents feel disregarded, and children lose.