ALBANY, N.Y. April 8, 2019 — New York State United Teachers, joined by local educators and members of the state Legislature, today outlined actions the State Education Department must take to address the myriad issues with state tests for children in grades 3-8.
State testing devolved into chaos last week when the state’s computer-based testing system failed despite assurances that similar failures that occurred in 2018 had been addressed. Further, parents and students once again reported student stress and anxiety about grade-level inappropriate questions and the untimed nature of these exams, which resulted in numerous students sitting for hours on end as they struggled to complete their tests.
“Enough is enough with these flawed, invalid state exams,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Our students deserve much better from the state. The message is clear: Correct the tests.”
In addition to putting an immediate stop to computer-based testing, NYSUT repeatedly has called on the state to make changes to the testing system as a whole, starting with the 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.
“It’s time that the State Education Department finally took real ownership of this testing debacle so we can make the significant changes necessary to restore student, parent and educator trust in this system,” NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango said. “Until that happens, these tests will continue to be utterly invalid measures of student learning.”
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 I hear about students crying because they are so stressed out by these flawed tests, something is broken,” said Laura Franz, president of the Albany Public School Teachers Association. “State testing may be federally mandated, but there is no excuse for the cruel system the state has put in place.”
“Providing our children with a high-quality education is an educator’s top priority, but the current state testing system does not further that mission,” said Natalie McKay, president of the Schoharie Teachers Association. “We need the state to step up and make real changes that address the stress and anxiety our students, parents and teachers feel about these exams.”
“When we turn writing a paragraph or solving a math equation into an anxiety-inducing affair, we’re sending the wrong message about education,” said Juliet Benaquisto, president of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers. “Our students come to school excited to learn. But subjecting them to these exams serves only to break that spirit.”
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.com 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.