Monday, May 14, 2012

What your child should bring when opting out of tests

Updates for 2014: 
calendar of New York State Testing dates

website to get started

My daughter gave the information below, along with last week's post, to her teachers as she was opting out of tests.  The teachers asked her to bring more copies to school. 

Most teachers agree with the idea of refusing to take the state exams (opting out). But teachers are powerless.
 Only students (your children) can do this.

"One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, … all you are learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test. And that’s not going to make education interesting to you."

    Barak Obama, March 28, 2011

The Case Against
High-Stakes Standardized Testing
Parent & Community Coalition
                               for Educational Change

The U.S and NYS Departments of Education, the Rochester School Board, and the NYS Board of Regents are obsessed with high-stakes standardized testing partially because it is cost efficient and easy to score. Among other difficulties, it discourages higher order thinking, problem solving, collaborating, and other skills.

Consequences of high stakes testing:
·        Schools Becoming Test Prep Factories: preparing students for tests, not real-world challenges.
·        Unfairly Evaluating Students, Teachers and Schools only by Test Scores: Despite little validity or reliability, these test scores are used to close schools and to satisfy education policy and lawmakers. Students are treated as numbers, rather than as individuals.
·        Narrowing the Curriculum: Standardized tests reduce the emphasis on higher level thinking skills, citizenship and vocational education.
·        Discouraging Intrinsic Motivation: By focusing primarily on test preparation and results, many students become turned off and drop out.

Skills Needed for 21st Century
The need for 21st century skills is clear. Students must have the ability to think creatively, to work collaboratively, to reason effectively, and to solve complex problems.
High-stake testing fails to focus on any of these skills. Currently only 14% of Black and Latino students who graduate from high school and go on to college, will graduate and only 53% of white students will succeed.
These results indicate most U.S. students are unprepared for the world of work, college, and active participation in our democratic communities.

Social Justice vs. Social Injustice
We have a moral responsibility to provide all students the tools they need become compassionate, responsible and successful citizens. Standardized tests cannot assess these critical skills.
High-stakes testing harms students by inhibiting growth and development, particularly of English Language Learners and of students with special needs by:
    • Discriminating against children with limited access to books, technology, and health care
    • Leading the public to believe that high test scores are the only measure of a good school or a good student
    • Decreasing the "joy of learning" and increasing needless stress, which discourages learning
    • Encouraging racist beliefs that African-American and Hispanic students are inferior, because they tend to score lower on standardized tests, due to poverty-related issues
    • Creating the illusion that most poor students can "catch-up" to middle class students, by scoring higher on these tests, and that teachers of poor students are incompetent
    • Diverting funds which would be better spent addressing more critical needs of children.

Student Motivation and Student Drop-Out Rate
High-stakes testing creates environments that do not honor the individual student’s needs and interests, often resulting in boredom and behavioral issues.
These negative school environments create an aura of "winners & losers" and “survival of the fittest,” inadvertently increasing behavior issues, failure to graduate and more "drop-outs".
Research has shown that interest-based, collaborative learning projects deepens students’ learning and increases student motivation.
Teaching as a Profession
High-stakes, standardized testing also de-professionalizes the teaching profession by:
  • Unwittingly encouraging corruption through cheating, teaching-to-the-test, using "cut-scores," and devaluing the professional judgment of teachers
  • De-professionalizing teaching; teachers become technicians vs. professionals who can adjust instruction to meet the needs & interests of students

Current Testing

Grade           Test
Kindergarten       RCSD Reading Assessment
1-8*  RCSD Reading
          NCLB ELA
          NCLB Math
          NYS Science (7-8)
9-12       NYS ELA
NYS Algebra
NYS American History
NYS World History
Regents Competency Tests: Foreign Language, American History and Government, World History, Mathematics 

Other Testing:
Language Assessment Battery Revised (LAB-R)

For Students with Severe Cognitive Disabilities:
New York State Alternate Assessment

For all English as a Second Language students for all grades:
English as a Second Language Test (NYSESLAT)

An analysis of the 2000 and 2011 New York State District Report Cards lead one researcher to conclude about testing in RCSD:
“It is clear that our district has not advanced in either Math or English Language Arts in the past 10 years. Increasing standards and more standardized testing has not improved the scores for our children.”

What Are Alternatives for Schools That Use High-Stakes Standardized Testing?
World-renown education reformers, including Diane Ravitch, Ron Wolk, Ted Sizer, Deborah Meier, Marion Brady, and the National Academy of Sciences, advocate using a multiple-measures of student assessment, including the use of
Presentations, and

This highly valid and reliable assessment method emphasizes the growth and development of individual students and on many of the 21st Century Learning Skills that colleges, the work place, and our democracy require.

What You Can Do:

*      Call your child’s teacher, the school principal, school board members, School Board Commissioner and your Board of Regents Representative to demand change!

*      Ask your PTA or school organization to invite local testing critics and RCSD representatives to inform parents and staff about testing issues.
Organizations against Testing

Join Parent and Community Groups

Community Education Task Force (Local)

Coalition for Justice in Education (Local)

New York State Performance Standards     Consortium


Parent & Community Coalition for Educational Change (Standardized Test Committee Contacts):    

Dan Drmacich

Carolyn Alston

Elizabeth Laidlaw

  Key Developments in 2012-13:

·         Stakes are even higher with implementation of “Common Core,” new state and federal accountability frameworks, emphasis on “test security,” and new statutory teacher/principal evaluation systems built on state and local test results. 
·         Teachers in Seattle and other districts have launched boycotts of specific standardized tests
·         Parents/students are opting out more and communicating strategies nationally via social media
·         Rochester School Board joined districts in TX, FL and thousands of individuals and other organizations by passing a resolution calling on state and federal governments to end overemphasis on high stakes tests
Additional Resources / Corrections
Greater Rochester Opt Out (local) -- search on facebook, ask to be added:!/groups/383541531722610/?fref=ts
Flower City Parents Network forum (local):
Coalition for Justice In Education (local):  Dan Drmacich

Contact and Express Your Concerns

RCSD School Board
Malik Evans, Chair
Melisza Campos
Cynthia Elliott    
Sophie Gallivan
Willa Powell   
Van White   

131 West Broad Street
Rochester, NY 14614        585.262.8525 

          The Board of Regents
Merryl Tisch, Chancellor
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, N.Y. 12234
518) 474-5889
Milton Cofield, Vice Chancellor
98 Hickory Ridge Road
Rochester, N.Y. 14625
(585) 200-6284
Wade Norwood, Regent
74 Appleton Street
Rochester, NY 14611


Hilary said...

Nice job putting all this together! Did your daughter print this out and take it in, or is there a printed copy somewhere? I am particularly interested in giving my son information to respond to those who say he is hurting his school. Thanks!

Elizabeth Laidlaw said...

Thank you Hilary. The High Stakes Testing committee of the CETF put it together. It prints on a 11X14 sheet, 4 columns. I have a word doc of it I can email to you, if you want. Email .