Veteran New York educators never thought they would look to Texas to lead the way.
"If Texas lawmakers are questioning the overuse of tests and whether they are spending too much money, then it just begs the question why we don't even know how much is being spent on tests," Jim Jacobus said to Assemblyman Chris Friend, R-Big Flats.
From left, Jim Jacobus, a Horseheads TA retiree, speaks to Assemblyman Chris Friend, R-Big Flats, about the harm over-testing causes students. Photo by Betsy Sandberg.
It's not just Texas. Lawmakers nationwide are listening to educators and parents as they consider bills to limit standardized testing. Jacobus, a retired Horseheads Teachers Association member, participated in NYSUT's statewide in-district lobbying efforts in April.
NYSUT supports three bills now before the Assembly and Senate:
- Truth About Testing: We need to know how much money is being spent on tests and how much classroom time is being spent preparing kids for tests at the expense of real instruction. Bill numbers A. 6594/S. 4712.
- End Testing of Our Youngest Learners: This bill would prohibit the administration of any test on children in grades K-2 that is not diagnostic in nature. A. 6593/S. 4764.
- Protect Student Privacy: New York has recently agreed to share confidential student information with corporate entities. This bill would prohibit the release of personally identifiable information about individual students to third parties unless there is parental consent. A. 6059/S. 4284.
Margaret Smith teaches eighth grade in the Elmira schools. "I teach social studies - Civil War to the present. I have done 30 days of testing so far. I am a month behind. I don't know if my students and I will even get to the civil rights movement this year," the Elmira TA member told Friend, urging him to support the testing legislation.
Money spent on overtesting of students especially rankles school districts as budgets go up against the irresponsible property tax cap, said Jacobus, who coordinates political action efforts for the Southern Tier region for NYSUT. The union has filed a lawsuit against the property tax cap law, saying it unconstitutionally limits local school districts’' control over the programs they can offer and undermines basic democracy.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta said the testing bills are sorely needed to address the growing concerns that the testing industry is gaining control over school policy. "To those who have demanded 'data-driven' accountability, we say we want some data too," Pallotta said. As for testing 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, "It's not just that these tests are often unnecessary. It's worse than that. They cause stress and anxiety while taking valuable learning time away from the classroom. We must stop this."
Go to www.truthabouttesting.org to contact your lawmakers and tell them to support these bills.