Last year, around 20% of parents in New York State decided to opt their children out of the state-created assessments to show their education department that they feel these tests do not benefit their children or schools. This year, the new commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, has been visiting districts to explain the new “changes” to this year’s state tests. She wants to encourage parents to opt their children back in, for she believes the tests are now better. She is even finding teachers she can use to promote why assessments are important. (See the image below that is one of many on the main page of the state website.) The changes she mentions are that the tests are a bit shorter, and students now have unlimited time to complete them. She says more changes are coming. The test this year, however, is the same flawed test it always has been. Below are just some of the many reasons that you should opt your child out:
- The tests are still developmentally inappropriate. Yes, the test may have one less passage, but are the passages finally developmentally appropriate? In years past, students had reading passages that were 2-3 grade levels above their own. Commissioner Elia never mentioned that there were improvements made to the passages themselves. That means students will have to struggle through the same unsuitable passages that were given before.
- By the time the schools receive the test scores, there will be nothing useful that can be learned from them. Why? Well, first of all, the state demands that all of the tests be returned after teachers grade them. Only then will they determine what score equals passing. This means that the state is choosing how many students they want to pass for its own political agenda. Secondly, the teacher never gets to see the answers to the questions on the test, and they don’t know what students got wrong and why. How is that helpful?
- All these tests take away time that your child could spend learning. In years past, students spent 6-8 hours taking these tests, and then the teachers spent at least a few days out of the classroom grading them. Throughout all this time, learning is not occurring. This year, students get as much time as they need, so students may spend 12-16 hours out of the classroom, or more. Even worse!
- These testing contracts cost the state big bucks that could be spent on your child’s education! Pearson may be out after this year, and Questar is in, but this still means New York State is spending millions of your tax dollars–$44 million, to be exact–on these poorly-made tests. Teachers could be getting more books for their classrooms! (Click here for more information about the testing contracts.)
- Getting rid of these tests means that teachers won’t be made to teach to tests. Your district could be making your child’s teacher do constant test preparation when he/she could be using a well-developed curriculum instead. Social Studies and science would still be a large part of what your child learns. Ask what your child’s teacher is being made to do. The harsh reality is that teachers in grades 3-8, and even 9-12, are being made to follow poorly written modules with scripted lessons. Commissioner Elia says they should not be followed exactly, but many districts are demanding that their teachers do it in hopes to raise test scores.
- Most importantly, opting out is the only way to get changes to occur! Last year, 250,000 NY state students opted out of the assessments. That sent such a strong message to the education department that they made changes. They weren’t great changes, but it was enough to show parents that their voices matter. If parents continue to opt their children out, maybe we can get rid of these flawed tests once and for all!
For more information about the state testing, click here for a short video.
For a sample opt out letter, click here.