Despite efforts by NYS Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia and others to suppress refusal numbers, it appears that the opt out rate for the NYS Common Core ELA tests in grades 3-8 matched or surpassed last year’s figures. As a result of Commissioner Elia’s unilateral decision to implement a policy of untimed testing, some 8, 9, and 10-year old students sat for hours trying to finish these exams, in some cases taking 4-6 hours per day for three consecutive days.
Not only does the practice of untimed testing for young students violate the generally accepted standards for test development as per the American Psychological Association, parents and educators contend that it is breaking the law. In 2014, New York State passed a law placing a 1% cap on the amount of instructional hours that could be spent on mandated state testing. As a result of Commissioner Elia’s new untimed test directive, many students have spent more than 4 times the amount of time on state testing than New York State law allows.
Parents and educators are demanding the Board of Regents put a stop to a policy that was not only implemented by the Commissioner without a Board of Regents’ vote, but is unsupported by research, violates the 1% test cap law and ultimately, results in cruel and grossly inappropriate testing conditions.
Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator and technical advisor to the Task Force said, “It is outrageous that despite the Common Core Task Force’s recommendation that the state undertake a formal review of untimed testing, Commissioner Elia, a member of the task force, chose to forgo her own recommendation and essentially experiment on our children by implementing an untimed testing without formal review or a vote by the Board of Regents.”
“These tests teach children to hate school and establish bad memories associated with testing which will persist for decades. Once again, policy makers have shown that they do not understand children or schools. We will not allow New York state to abuse our children’s sincere desire to do well. Until we see radical change, opt outs will continue to grow,” said Charmaine Dixon, Brooklyn public school parent, PTA President PS 203.
“Not only did the Commissioner bypass any formal review, under her leadership NYSED failed to require school districts to maintain any data regarding the number of students testing beyond the suggested end times, let alone how long students worked for. This sloppy oversight reflects a gross lack of concern for the many young children who sat for up to 18 hours of testing over the course of three days last week and will make it more difficult for parents and policymakers to have a true understanding of how much instructional time has been lost to testing and whether or not the state law has been broken. One can only hope that this oversight was not intentional,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent and educator.
“Without any oversight or monitoring of its impact, this policy is directing schools to violate the 1% test cap law. The failure of the NYSED to keep any official records of how long individual students are spending on these tests is neglectful at best. At worst, this is a blatant attempt to evade the law and deceive the public under the guise of reducing test anxiety for children,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.
“There has to be a better way forward for our children. Students are working incredibly hard to do their best and are sometimes testing for 4 hours in a single sitting. For students with special needs, English language learners, and those who aren’t developmentally ready, these untimed tests are akin to torture. We must pivot toward a holistic education system where kids are inspired to share their brilliance and do their best, as opposed to our current poorly designed top down test and punish system. Neither the SAT, GRE, or LSAT, take as long to complete as the current 3rd grade ELA exam. We have to do better,” said Jamaal Bowman, parent and Bronx educator.
In a recent interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal news, Commissioner Elia stated “We’re going to look to try to get it down from three days (of testing) to two, maybe we won’t be able to … we’re going to review it.” Clearly there is no end in sight to developmentally inappropriate state assessments that waste valuable instructional time and violate the state’s test cap law.
NYSAPE, a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state, is calling on parents to continue to opt out by refusing high-stakes, inappropriate testing for the 2015-16 school year. Go to www.nysape.org for more details.