Monday, May 7, 2018

Why Testing in New York State is Still Abusive by Amy Gropp Forbes

Today, I asked education activists whether changes to testing made by the NY State Education Department, along with the partial severing of test scores from teacher evaluation by the State Legislature were steps in the right direction. 

Here is the responses I got from a much respected parent leader in Brooklyn Amy Gropp Forbes

1    I  think the change from 6 days to 4 was by far the most important and significant change made to date and I agree it should be applauded, in theory. However, now that the tests are untimed there are kids across the state who sit for between 2 and 6 hours in a single day for tests that the state estimated should take 60-70 minutes for 3rd and 4th graders (80-90 minutes for 5th - 8th graders) per day. This is a clear indication of 2 things: 1. the tests are not well designed. 2. The pressure kids are facing when they take these tests is enormous -- why else would otherwise reasonable and caring adults let any child sit for 6 hours for a test? There was major outcry when the ELA was 270 minutes over 3 days (90 minutes per day)...but now when children take between 120 minutes and 360 minutes in a single day we are supposed to be ok with that?

2.  NYSED tells us that they heard us regarding test length, but the increases in the last 10 years were so great that the reductions were inconsequential in the scheme of things: In 2010 the number of questions on the 5th grade ELA and math tests combined was 61 and by 2016 that number was 117. That is a 92% increase.  . As long as annual testing is mandated federally I realize we are limited, but I do not see any law about the tests needing to be more than 1 period a day, for one or two days. In my circles, no one really objects to content or quality the 4th grade state science test. It is fair and appropriate for the students. The only reason anyone opts out of it is because now it can also be used for teacher evaluations, something it was not designed to do.

3. Regarding teacher evaluation: leaving this to the districts leaves NYC vulnerable. While NYSUT and several local unions have been outspoken about the ills of our testing system the UFT has not. 
In NYC every subway car has the message "IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING" but teachers and principals in NYC feel unsafe speaking out about testing. Teachers are not even allowed to read the test booklets.  When parents report situations that are against DOE policy rather than providing clearer guidelines to all educators and parents, we are asked to give names. We are not interested in seeing individual educators punished for doing what they have been led to believe they are supposed to do! This is a systemic problem, not a few isolated incidents. And the stakes attached to the tests are HUGE for kids in NYC. The law says that test scores cannot be part of a child's permanent record. But when NYC kids apply to middle and high schools those scores are included on every record and they are a factor for some selective schools.

4.    I truly believe that if we want a public education system that is equitable that we need clear statewide policy, not district level policy, when it comes to testing.

1 comment:

dfadfa said...

The irony is that the pressure around these tests (often from parents) sometimes drives the "high achievers" to sit well beyond a reasonable time on the extended-response days, checking, rechecking, and revising their work. My kid said a friend-- who is already headed to a highly selective screened middle school-- sat for almost 5 hours on day 2 of the 5th grade MATH test. (The math test has generally been described as a 'better' test, because it's less subjective.) But if we step back and take into account the HARM that these tests have done and continue to do to public ed writ large-- closing neighborhood schools and narrowing curriculum in majority black + brown neighborhoods, helping proliferate test prep/no excuses charters that skim off "higher achievers" from those same schools, we have to ask -- why are we worrying about giving credit to the state for making these harmful tests incrementally less harmful?