CENTEREACH, N.Y. April 30, 2019 — New York State United Teachers members, Long Island school superintendents, board of education members, parents and others rallied today to call on the State Education Department to immediately address significant issues with state tests for children in grades 3–8.
Speaking the same day that computer-based math exams began for children statewide, concerned educators and parents yet again called for real changes to address student stress and anxiety driven by grade-level inappropriate questions and untimed tests, which have resulted in numerous students sitting for hours on end as they struggle to complete their tests. After computer-based testing turned chaotic during English language arts exams earlier this month, NYSUT also reiterated calls to halt computer-based testing.
“Educators strive to promote a life-long love of learning, but these exams do the exact opposite,” Middle Country Teachers Association President Nadia Resnikoff said. “Student assessment should not create stress and anxiety. It’s time the state makes real changes that put a stop to this madness.”
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.
“We're not afraid of accountability or assessments as long as the accountability and assessments help us grow,” Middle Country Central School District Superintendent Roberta Gerold said. “Our standards must help us prepare students for graduation, college, careers and to be productive citizens.”
“Year after year we have the same conversations about how to fix this broken testing system,” Patchogue-Medford School District Superintendent Michael Hynes said. “It’s long past time that the fixes were made. Our children deserve better.”
“Local school officials aim to provide our students with everything they need to flourish,” said Dr. Karen Lessler, Middle Country Central School District Board of Education president. “But when the state doesn’t listen to the countless local voices calling for changes to these flawed exams, they do a disservice to the children who deserve every opportunity to succeed.”
“When students, parents, educators and administrators all identify the same problems with these tests, the message to the state could not be more clear,” said Aurelia Henriquez, superintendent of the Riverhead Central School District. “It’s time to create a valid, meaningful assessment system that promotes learning and accurately measures our students. Instead of using billions of dollars to create and score broken tests, we should be spending our resources on guidance counselors, educators and the alternative programs that we know we need.”
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 benchmarks.
“When students as young as 8 or 9 years old spend hours upon hours diligently working on flawed exams, something is wrong,” said Darlene Skaee, a third–grade teacher in the North Shore Central School District. “It is promising to see my third-graders work so hard to do their best on these tests. But they deserve so much better from the state.”
“Non-native English speakers deserve the same opportunities to succeed that we provide to our English-speaking students,” said Joana De La Rosa, an educator in the Middle Country School District who teaches English as a New Language students. “But these flawed exams put ENL students at a significant disadvantage. State leaders must step up to make changes to these exams in order to send a message that we care deeply about their success.”
On Tuesday, computer-based math tests began for children in grades 3–8. Paper testing begins 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.
“I have seen firsthand just how unfair these state tests are on kids,” said Donna Noesi, a parent of Babylon Union Free School District students and an elementary special education teacher in the Middle Country Central School District. “Whether it’s my students or my own children, I believe we should be providing fair assessments that help all kids grow. The state must step up and fix this broken system.”
“I have experienced many iterations of state testing in my long career as an educator, but this latest round of state testing is among the most troubling I’ve seen,” said Herb Mones, a retired Middle Country Central School District teacher. “Our students deserve better than a system that mislabels them and causes undue stress. The state must create tests that actually help with, not hinder, the learning process.”
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 problems 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.