Testing/Assessments & Learning Standards, APPR/Teacher Evaluation
October 16, 2013

Testimony: High-stakes consequences must wait until testing results are meaningful, useful

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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Caption: Photo by Dennis Stierer

The high-stakes consequences of the state's new assessments must be delayed until the tests are transparent, diagnostic and timely, and generate useful results, Todd Hathaway, a teacher from East Aurora High School and member of the East Aurora Faculty Association, told the state Senate Standing Committee on Education in Buffalo Wednesday.

Hathaway delivered the testimony on behalf of NYSUT at the third of five hearings conducted by committee chair Sen. John Flanagan, R-East Northport.

"We need to get testing right. The first step is to adopt a three-year moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of standardized testing for students and teachers," Hathaway said. "We need time to fix the issues with these high-stakes tests. We need to listen to parents and teachers. We need to redesign the tests to meet the needs of our students and communities."

Educators should be allowed to examine the tests, understand the tasks required and focus their instruction on areas of weakness, he said. The system also must allow for timely feedback to parents, teachers and districts. Waiting almost six months renders that feedback useless, he said.

"We have created a system that is chaotic, unclear and punitive," said Hathaway. "That is no way to educate our students."

"Finally, we must fully fund our system," he said, pointing out that the state today spends 5 percent less on education than it did in 2008. "As each year turns, that gap grows."

Preethi Govindaraj and Paul Vermette from the Partnership for Smarter Schools also testified in Buffalo, where the grassroots group hosted a massive forum on education earlier this month. The Partnership includes parents, administrators, higher education faculty and NYSUT leaders and members.

We need time "to get testing right," Govindaraj said.

Williamsville Superintendent Scott G. Martzloff, in written testimony, noted the volume of work involved in developing pre- and post-tests for 185 courses and grade levels, and processing 70,000 bubble sheets during the spring assessment period.

"While the outlay of money to cover the cost of the implementation is a huge burden for school districts during difficult financial times, the amount of time spent on the Regents reform agenda has been astronomical," said Martzloff.

The next Senate education committee hearing is Oct. 29 in New York City; the fifth hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13 in Albany.

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