ALBANY, N.Y. June 11, 2012 - New York State United Teachers today called for a major overhaul of New York's standardized testing system, saying the nearly 4,500 minutes, or 74 hours, the average student spends on standardized testing over their school years profits giant testing companies, but cheats students out of a rich and full education.
While emphasizing that teachers - and teachers' unions - are not opposed to either accountability or assessing student performance, NYSUT said the fixation on standardized testing has thrown the state's education system out of balance.
"We need to restore that balance," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "Tests must be better aligned to the new core curriculum and more useful in guiding instruction, in order to best help students learn and grow. Testing must not be allowed to dominate what happens in our classrooms. And, teachers - not testing companies - should be directing the design and writing of state tests, as they did before No Child Left Behind's mandated testing regimen turned many schools into 'test prep' factories.'"
New York would be better served, he added, reducing the role of 'fill-in-the-bubble' tests and increasing the role of "authentic assessments" that recognize the wide range of learning styles that standardized tests don't take into account.
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira noted no country tests as much as the United States, and the over-emphasis on standardized tests – and the accompanying hours of time devoted to 'drill and kill' test-prep – are narrowing the curriculum at the expense of real learning. Neira testified that on top of a minimum 74 hours of state standardized testing throughout their school careers, many districts also require local tests. In addition, students also lose three to four weeks of quality instruction each year to make room for review and test-prep for various state and local tests.
"The high-stakes nature of these tests has exacerbated the growing fixation on testing," Neira said. "Using these tests for promotion and graduation has increased the stress on students and parents, while the consequences attached by the state and federal governments to poor test performance have intensified the stress on teachers and administrators, turned many schools into 'test-prep' factories."
"This over-reliance and over-emphasis on standardized tests has also narrowed the curriculum, so that only those subjects that are tested are considered important. That is wrong, and is the opposite of everything we know as educators," Neira said. "Students need a rich, well-rounded education in order to be college and career ready.'
In testimony before the state Senate Education Committee, Neira noted that, "Standardized testing can be a useful diagnostic tool for teachers. However, when standardized testing is overemphasized and misused, we must say enough is enough. We have reached that point."
With state testing run amok and with embarrassing errors forcing the state Education Department to throw out a record number of questions - NYSUT said also it is critically important for the Legislature to protect teachers from shame and humiliation by the news media if data from tests are linked to teacher evaluations and made public.
"Divulging that information through the media will corrupt the intent of the new teacher-evaluation system, especially when that data created is defective and imprecise," added NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta. He pointed to the shameful media exploitation that resulted when the New York City Board of Education released inaccurate data reports for more than 12,000 New York City teachers.
"Let's not make that same mistake again," Pallotta said. He called on the legislature to work with NSYUT and pass legislation to shield teachers' evaluations from the news media and general public. "We must ensure that student testing data is used to help improve teaching practice and student learning - not to publicly shame teachers and principals," Pallotta said.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.