Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why "Sit and Stare" Is a Terrible Policy for East Hampton and Every District in NY State

East Hampton Board of Education Superintendent Richard Burns Principal Beth Doyle
Principal Chales Soriano
Dear Superintendent Burns, Principal Doyle, Principal Soriano and the East Hampton Board of Education

It has come to my attention that the East Hampton School District has adopted a "Sit and Stare" policy for those students whose families have have chosen to Opt- Out of state tests this spring or have chosen to Opt out themselves. As a resident of East Hampton, and a teacher and scholar who has a long involvement with education policy issues, I would like to strongly protest this policy

Opting out of tests as a method of protesting excessive testing is a movement that is sweeping through our state and the nation, endorsed by groups like Citizens Action of New York, the Working Families Party, and the Network for Public Education as well as teachers unions. It represents a powerful act of conscience that should be treated with respect not punitive action. Many school districts have gone out of their way to show their respect for students and familis who make this choice, East Hampton should follow their example.

The East Hampton school district has an excellent reputation among residents of the district and people around the state. That reputation will be instantly jeopardized if you follow through with a "Sit and Stare" policies. I will not be the only one to publiclize your actions should the district adopt a policy this punitive at a time when hundreds of thousands of students throughout the state are likely to Opt Out of tests.

I want to close on a personal note. As someone who one spent time in more than 20 Bronx schools leading community history projects, I have seen first hand the damage that excessive testing, and the misuse of tests to rate teachers and schools, has done to public education. I watched schools, in fear of low test scores, cut arts programs, eliminate school trips, and use recess for test prep

Test Resistance, of which Opting Out is one important form, is one of the great justice movements of our time It is deeply disappointing that a district in which I reside, and whose policies I have long respected, has chose to punish students and families who participate in it

Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University


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