2017 Test Boycott Numbers Remain High;
Parents from all Demographics Continue to Reject Test & Punish System
Over 225,000 parents across the state, including tens of thousands of first-time refusers, rejected the state’s test-and-punish system, as evidenced by a third consecutive year of opt out numbers hovering near 20%. This is remarkable given that NYSED and local districts continue their attempts to squelch opt out by distributing misleading information and threatening dire consequences that create an environment of confusion and fear for families.
While Commissioner Elia would like to portray students who boycott the state ELA and math tests as ‘white students in rich or average wealth districts’, the data says differently. Only 8% of public school districts even met the required 95% testing participation rate, demonstrating how parents from all districts and demographics are boycotting the testing regime.*
The Board of Regents approved a reduction in state testing from 6 to 4 days (combined ELA and math) at their May meeting. While this is a step in the right direction, significant problems remain. Due to Commissioner Elia’s untimed testing mandate, many students continue to sit for up to 6 hours of testing per day; the Common Core standards, now rebranded the Next Generation Learning Standards, are still far from developmentally appropriate; and student data privacy is still at significant risk. Rather than focusing on the work that needs to be done, including truly overhauling the standards and creating meaningful and developmentally appropriate assessments, Commissioner Elia continues to be divisive, undermining the direction the Board of Regents and the trust of New Yorkers.
Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent, Long Island Opt Out founder and founding member of NYSAPE said, “While State education officials and corporate-reform lobbyist interests debate and interpret the assessment results and opt out numbers using the usual rhetoric, we see parents from all school districts including first-time refusers, overwhelmingly rejecting this test and punish system. Not only have they chosen to protect their children, but they have also joined our community of parents committed to advocating for whole-child policies in our classrooms. This network of hundreds of thousands of advocates will continue to grow and develop strategies to fight against those who wish to profit from our children.”
“NYSED continues to ignore best practices for children and New York State Schools. The test score results only shine a light on the fact that NYSED continues to try and mislead parents and teachers. NYSED has a long way to go to regain the trust of parents and educators in New York State. Opt Out is remaining steady and is adding thousands of new parents each year,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator and Executive Director of BATs.
Eileen Graham, Rochester public school parent and founder of the Black Student Leadership organization, expressed, “I would like to see more realistic efforts towards meeting the needs of children and not making our children testing ‘lab rats.’ I’m extremely angry that we keep obsessing over testing; instead of partnering with teachers and parents to ensure our children discover their greatness and learn the brilliance they bring to their schools and the world.”
Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent, educator and founding member of NYSAPE, said, “We are five years into the State’s implementation of these clearly flawed standards and assessments and we are still labeling 60% of our students as failures. The Next Generation Learning Standards are nothing more than a rebranded version of the Common Core, adhering to the same invalid back-mapping methodology and lacking any basis in research or evidence. It is time to scrap these shoddy standards and assessments and start over.”
“These tests aren’t serving any purpose other than to keep the testing treadmill turning, preventing meaningful assessment alternatives from emerging and perpetuating unworkable teacher evaluation models. This testing system stifles children’s thirst for learning and is being used to usher in pervasive computer-based testing activity,” said Fred Smith, testing specialist and former administrative analyst for New York City public schools.
Kemala Karmen, Brooklyn public school parent and founding member of NYC Opt Out said, “The Commissioner, and others, including NYC’s mayor and chancellor, disingenuously use the test scores to boast that students are making “progress.” Progress on standardized tests can only be measured if the testing instrument, conditions, and manner of scoring remain consistent from year to year. This is not the case. Changes this year include some students taking the tests on computers rather than paper and some students having questions read aloud (meaning that they are no longer being tested on decoding, as in previous years). As ever, the determination of what raw score equals “proficient” changes every year and the untimed policy (and failure to track how long students are actually spending) makes direct comparison even less tenable.”
Johanna Garcia, NYC public school parent and President of the District 6 Community Education Council said, “There were many reports of intentional misinformation that bordered on students’ and parents’ civil rights being violated. If NYSED and NYCDOE had confidence in the testing regime, they wouldn’t have to heavily invest in policies that condoned internal threats and scare tactics. Because of their fear mongering, we see classrooms with students learning in fear. We need to finally have a public education system that’s accountable to the students’ learning instead of false numbers that further political agendas.”
New York parents remain steadfast in their advocacy for stronger child-centered policies and will continue to boycott state tests that are a waste of precious resources that would be better served addressing the opportunity gap.
* Participation rate calculated by counting NYC as one district (as NYSED itself often does). Public schools only (not charter schools).
NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.