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April 29, 2019

Elmira area educators demand state action to fix flawed state exams

Source: NYSUT Media Relations
elmira correct the tests
Caption: Dora Leland, NYSUT Board of Directors member and Horseheads Teachers Association vice president, speaks to a reporter in advance of today's event. Photo by Paul Hypolite.

ELMIRA, N.Y. April 29, 2019 — New York State United Teachers members today called on the State Education Department to immediately fix significant issues with state tests for children in grades 3-8.

Speaking the day before the start of math exams for these children, NYSUT representatives again called for real changes that would address student stress and anxiety. Grade-level inappropriate questions and untimed tests have resulted in numerous students have sat for hours on end as they have struggled to complete their tests. Further, after computer-based testing turned chaotic during English language arts exams earlier this month, NYSUT also reiterated calls to halt computer-based testing.

“Year after year we say the same thing: The state testing system is utterly broken,” said Dora Leland, NYSUT Board of Directors member and Horseheads Teachers Association vice president. “It’s time that officials in Albany step up to create a meaningful assessment system that helps inform learning and stops the stress and anxiety students are grappling with.”

NYSUT repeatedly has called on the state to make changes to the testing system as a whole, starting with scoring benchmarks used to determine whether a student is proficient in ELA and math. State-released statistics show that while majorities of students have been deemed not proficient on 3-8 tests, majorities of the same groups of students go on to pass the rigorous Regents exams — a clear indication that the 3-8 test benchmarks are broken.

“These tests turn learning into a stressful exercise with few positive outcomes,” said Kathy Pilling-Whitney, president of the Elmira Teachers Association. “The state must stop mislabeling kids. Only then can we start to rebuild the trust that has been lost in assessments.”

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NYSUT believes more educators — accounting for greater gender, racial, geographic and needs-based diversity — must be involved in the test-creation process from start to finish. That includes writing and selecting test questions, reviewing the tests before they are distributed and setting the scoring benchmarks.

“The state has lost the trust of the entire school community with this testing system,” Watkins Glen Faculty Association President Travis Durfee said. “If they ever want to restore that trust, officials in Albany must come up with a meaningful assessment system that furthers learning, instead of mislabeling children.”

“I am proud to stand with teachers and parents in calling for the State Education Department to take action in correcting high-stakes testing imposed on our children and to raise awareness of our concerns over these tests,” said Assemblyman Christopher Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats), who is a member on the Assembly Committee on Children and Families. “The consequence of these problematic tests is that they fail to rightly measure a child’s aptitude and learning in accordance to what is developmentally appropriate for their age. It’s time our Board of Regents and State Education Department factor in blocks of quality learning over months long testing. New York needs to eliminate these tests.”

"From the start, I have strongly shared the constant concerns that parents and teachers have raised over the impact of current state testing on our students,” said State Sen. Tom O'Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats). “The system remains broken, it’s flawed and it has failed. The state, the Governor and the Board of Regents need to resolve this with a cooperative solution. One that works for our students, parents and teachers."

Computer-based math tests will begin for children in grades 3-8 tomorrow, and paper testing will begin Wednesday. Despite repeated calls this month for the state to take ownership of this testing debacle and demonstrate it will implement real changes to the exams, NYSUT still has not received a satisfactory response from the state Department of Education.

NYSUT has launched the Correct the Tests campaign to raise awareness of the serious issues with the grades 3-8 ELA and math tests and demand state action to fix these flawed, invalid tests that are harmful to New York students.

The union is drawing attention to the fact that:

  • the state tests are flawed and invalid;
  • invalid scoring benchmarks mislabel children;
  • ELA and math tests are too long;
  • untimed testing can be cruel and traumatic;
  • the tests are developmentally inappropriate; and
  • computer-based testing is problematic and has been rolled out too quickly.

Parents and educators are encouraged to visit CorrectTheTests.org for more information about the flaws with these tests and parents’ rights to opt their children out of taking the tests. The website also provides an outlet for parents and teachers to submit stories about testing issues in their schools.

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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