ALBANY, N.Y. March 27, 2013 - New York State United Teachers today launched a statewide public campaign asking parents to join teachers in opposing the state's use of new, hastily implemented standardized tests for high-stakes decisions affecting students and teachers.
For months, the statewide union has been pressing the State Education Department to acknowledge teachers' growing concerns with the state's rocky implementation of new Common Core learning standards and new standardized tests that students must take in April.
While NYSUT supports the "potential" of the new Common Core learning standards and fully embraces the principle of accountability for students and educators, two-thirds of teachers said in a poll that their students lacked textbooks and materials aligned with the state's new standards. Even worse, many teachers say students will be tested next month on material that has not yet been taught, with the state still distributing materials and guidance to teachers as late as last month. Education Commissioner John King Jr. and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, among others, have acknowledged student test scores will plummet - likely up to 30 percent - yet New York is still permitting the scores to be used to unfairly labeling students and measure teacher effectiveness.
"Teachers have repeatedly urged the State Education Department and Regents to use this year's tests to measure the state's progress in implementing the Common Core, not for high-stakes decisions affecting students and teachers," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "They aren't listening."
Iannuzzi said that, after months of intense efforts to get State Education Department leaders to acknowledge the specific and documented concerns voiced by teachers statewide, the union decided to take the issue public. NYSUT is taking out full-page print and on-line ads in leading upstate newspapers this week calling on parents to unite in a strong push-back against the state's over-reliance on standardized testing. The print and on-line ads link to a parent petition that will also be shared locally and via social media. Both the ads and petition can be found at www.nysut.org/testing.
Thousands of teachers have already written letters to the commissioner and Board of Regents detailing implementation problems and the tremendous stress placed on students by unrelenting standardized testing. NYSUT is delivering the letters to policymakers on a daily basis as part of a "Tell it Like it Is" campaign.
"Teachers are speaking forcefully and eloquently on the harmful impact of too many tests, given too frequently and without giving teachers and schools adequate time to prepare students," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. "We know parents share teachers' concerns about the state's obsession with standardized testing. This petition gives parents a way to add their voices to the concerns teachers have been voicing since early fall. Students and teachers feel they are being set up for failure."
In the union's open letter to parents, Iannuzzi said, "No experienced teacher would test students on material before it's been taught – and yet that's the scenario the state has created in its rush to roll out new standardized tests." The letter adds, "Too many students have not been taught the material for a whole new set of challenging standardized tests in math and English Language Arts."
Neira said NYSUT has pressed the State Education Department and Regents to allow time for school districts and teachers to thoughtfully implement the Common Core; for a reduction in the number and length of standardized tests; and for the state to evaluate the financial cost and instructional time lost to standardized testing.
Neira said teachers have been clear that the department's roll-out of the new standards and tests - under a backdrop of painful state and local budget cuts and thousands of layoffs - has been inconsistent, with delays and confusion at both the state and school district level.
In a poll of 1,600 New York teachers outside New York City conducted earlier this school year regarding their experiences with the implementation of the Common Core learning standards and tests, two-thirds said they are being pressured to move too fast to teach the new standards, while 65 percent said their students lacked access to textbooks and materials aligned to the new standards. Mid-way through the school year, more than three quarters of teachers said parents were not aware of the impact of the new Common Core standards on their children, or aware to a "low degree."
"New York is going too far and too fast with its testing regimen, and the system is nearing the point of implosion," Neira said. "How are parents going to react when test scores fall off a cliff and their children are wrongly labeled? What is going to be the impact on public education and educators?" Neira said. "We are fighting to have common sense prevail. Students and teachers need the time and resources to do this right."
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.