Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Letter from a Hudson Valley Parent to New Paltz Times Urging Parents to Take Stand Against Excessive High-Stakes Testing Through NYS Field Test Refusals

Our children are spending much more time preparing and taking standardized tests than ever before, and these high-stakes tests are resulting in substantial negative educational and fiscal impacts. New, unproven accountability systems, coupled with state and federal disinvestment and a tax "cap," are creating unprecedented changes in how we educate and fund public education. These tests hurt students, schools, and public education; take resources away from other educational programs our community values; and have significantly adverse fiscal consequences for school budgets and property taxes. 

As school districts strive to educate students to be 21st century citizens for 21st century employment, the state is mandating systems that have not been scientifically proven to improve learning, in fact, they utilize methods that have a potential to harm and hinder student and teacher achievement. In this tax “cap” environment, the state is mandating risky educational and fiscal policy. While large cost drivers – such as health insurance, pensions, energy – are increasing well above the 2% threshold, school districts are diverting money to pay for systems of testing and scoring, a cost burden that is pushed to local taxpayers as the portion of school budgets funded by the state continues to be well below historical levels. Impressively, our local school board has taken a stand: the New Paltz Board of Education unanimously voted for a resolution in opposition to high-stakes testing, requesting that Albany and Washington reevaluate these mandates: Race to the Top and the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR).

In June, we have an opportunity to take a stand against this harmful proliferation of standardized testing. Across the state – after a year full of tests that will impact students’ and teachers’ and communities’ futures – the state is throwing salt on the wound by allowing the for-profit Pearson testing company to use our children as guinea pigs in what is called field testing. Field tests are experiments, that is, purely utilized to try out questions on students, using them as “research subjects”, taking away yet again more classroom learning time, with no compensation and no parental permission process. Students receive no grades for these tests, and in no way are their teachers or parents informed about their performance.

As mandated by the NYS Education Department, the New Paltz Central School District will be administering 4th grade field tests on June 5th and 7th and 8th grade field tests on June 6th. Parents, if you have children in these grades, I strongly encourage you to join me in respectfully submitting a request to the school district that your child(ren) not be exploited “subjects” in the June field tests. You can find a template text for opting out here:

KT Tobin
New Paltz

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mounting Opposition: Education Activist Alfie Kohn Rallies Local Teachers, Administrators Against "Teaching to the Test"

There is mounting opposition to standardized testing and the Common Core, as witnessed by the creation of grassroots groups like Re-Thinking Testing: Mid-Hudson Region,, and Locally, a slew of speakers have come to SUNY New Paltz to talk about their resistance to the Race to the Top mentality -- most recently Alfie Kohn, author of 12 books, his latest being Feel-Bad Education.

SUNY New Paltz professor and veteran educator Nancy Schniedewind introduced Kohn to a packed lecture hall in the Coykendall Science Building last Thursday afternoon. “Alfie Kohn exhilarated the audience here 20 years ago, and it’s great to have him back at this critical time when one percent of our corporations and education administrators have hijacked our public education system,” she said.
“But there is good news, with 500 students, grades third through eighth, walking out in opposition to high stakes testing,” Schniedewind said. She went on to list a number of student/teacher/administrator walkouts and boycotts of the standardized testing that is being required in almost every state in the country. “Alfie Kohn has spoken truth to power for decades, and we’re very pleased to have him here.”

Kohn thanked Schniedewind and all of the many co-sponsors for inviting him to SUNY New Paltz. He noted that when he was introduced as speaking “truth to power,” he had to reflect on that. To reference a clich├ęd phrase, he said, he was “preaching to the choir,” yet he would “welcome any and all opportunity to speak truth to power. If governor Andrew Cuomo or president Barack Obama called me and invited me to speak, I’d be there in a heartbeat. But they don’t want to hear what I have to say, because it does not flatter them nor make them look good.”

He went on to say that in his years as an educator and an author, he felt that the US had hit rock bottom in the 2000’s with a president George Bush-inspired No Child Left Behind policy, which Kohn dubbed “Many Children Left Behind.”

Fast-forward, and he noted that “what would come to pass in the next decade-and-a-half was so much more devastating than we could have ever imagined. State standardized tests, which are not ‘state-sponsored’ but ‘federally sponsored,’ with the promise of funding that is not only a false promise but in fact is costing states millions of dollars, have had a devastating impact on minority and lower-economic children.”
The “wreckage,” as Kohn deemed it, is most felt in the lower socioeconomic brackets, where children who did not meet the “grade” were forced out of schools and their dropout rates skyrocketed under these “high-stakes tests.”

“This is the only quantifiable data coming out of the Race to the Top standardized testing and Common Core curriculum that has been force-fed to every state with the promise of funding, when the cost of implementing these tests and teacher/administrator evaluations has cut so deep into our taxpayer dollars that any ‘funding’ is a farce.”

He asked the audience to raise their hands as to how many were public school teachers, to which an estimated 40 percent raised their hands. Asked who were administrators, another 20 percent raised their hands. The rest were made up of future teachers from SUNY-New Paltz, concerned parents and “others.”
Kohn went on to say, backed with detailed research and analysis, that “not only are we losing our lower-economic students, but we’re also losing our greatest teachers! We have Washington telling our teachers what they should teach, what curriculums they should subscribe to, how to best prepare their students for these standardized tests. What do we want? Corporatized [as the standardized tests are farmed out to corporations] teachers, or those with passion and expertise and experience in educating our youth? What they want now is test-prep technicians. How frightening is that?”

He went on to say that this Race to the Top has not only lowered the bar, hindered deep learning and failed to execute any positive impacts on students, but instead has “one goal in mind: to create the best workers for our ‘global economy.’ What does that say? We want docile, non-thinking, non-critical workers to carry out our aims – not that we want to educate and encourage good human beings, with deep understanding and compassion and knowledge of the world and languages and cultures around them.”

Teachers and administrators and attendees alike all applauded Kohn and his research and message, and pledged to go a step farther and become more active in this highly controversial discussion. 

by Erin Quinn
New Paltz Times

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sample Letter: Field Test Opt Out

The following sample letter is provided for parents and guardians to use as a template to inform school administration that you have a student who will be opting out of this year's field tests. 

Dear _____________________ (Principal or Administrator),

I am writing to you on behalf of my son/daughter, ___________  I understand that ___________’s grade has been selected to participate in a stand-alone field test this June. Field tests have no educational relevance for my child and lack of participation carries no financial consequences for our school district. Therefore, I am writing to inform you that my child will NOT participate in the field test on (DATE). I expect that my child will be provided with alternative activities during the testing period. 

I would like to thank you in advance for your support and continued efforts to meet my child’s educational needs.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Here's What You Need to Know About Field Tests

Here's a great article with more information on field testing:

The following is a list of the field test sites for Ulster County, including the grade level and field test to be administered. Please note that field tests must be administered from 6/2/13-6/7/13, although field testing dates will vary by school. As schools are not required to give specific field test dates ahead of time, parents/guardians/students must request the field test dates that are specific to their district. 

ULSTER COUNTY Field Tests, June 2013,


Highland Elementary Grade 3 ELA, Grade 4 Science
Highland Middle School Grade 7 and 8 Math

New Paltz
Lenape Grade 4 ELA
New Paltz Middle School Grade 7 ELA & Grade 8 ELA


Zena Grade 5 Math
Sophie Finn Grade 4 ELA
Ernest C Meyer Grade 4 ELA
John F Kennedy Grade 4 ELA
George Washington Grade 5 Math
Robert R graves Grade 5 ELA
Harry L. Edson Grade 3 Math


Marbletown Grade 3 ELA
Kerhonkson Grade 3 ELA


Bennett Grade 3 Math
Phoencia Grade 3 Math
Woodstock Grade 3 ELA
Onteora Middle School Grade 7 ELA


Cahill Grade 4 ELA
Morse Grade 4 ELA
Mount Marion Grade 6 ELA
Riccardi Grade 4 ELA
Saugerties Junior High School Grade 7 ELA


Leptondale Grade 6 ELA
Ostrander Grade 4 Math
Plattekill Grade 4 Math
John G Borden Middle School Grade 7 ELA