Photo credit: istock | Some Long Island school districts are dissatisfied with the state's new standardized test.
Elementary school students across New York state this week will take field tests, basically experimental tests designed to help Pearson Education assess the validity of questions it is using on tests that count. Different school districts are assigned varying grades and subjects in which to administer the field tests.Hudson Valley parent groups are pressing to get the word out that the latest round of standardized tests for students is optional -- and that students can boycott with no consequences.
The Central Hudson Region PTA -- which represents schools in Orange, Sullivan and Rockland Counties -- sent a message to all local PTA leaders last week suggesting a boycott as a way to let legislators know that parents are fed up with tests taking time away from learning. A group of parents called ReThinking Testing MidHudson are also urging parents to boycott the tests.
"I feel like our concerns and suggestions are not being taken seriously," said Central Hudson PTA legislative chairwoman Jen Marraccino, of Nyack. "It's just too much testing. So we're feeling that we need to take some stronger action to get our legislators to really listen."
Marraccino said a group of parents and fifth-grade students in Nyack will meet in Memorial Park Thursday morning and walk to their school with posters trumpeting the boycott.
State officials say that field testing is a longstanding and valuable practice to assure the quality of tests.
"Our goal is always to require the least amount of testing necessary to build high quality assessments that provide accurate information about student achievement," said Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the state Education Department. "Field tests can be administered to students in a single class period of approximately 40 minutes -- certainly a worthwhile investment of time to help ensure the integrity of our testing system."
South Orangetown Central School District Superintendent Ken Mitchell said the exams are drawing more attention lately because parents are seeing the effects of the state's new requirement to evaluate teachers based on student scores.
Generally speaking, teacher evaluation plans instituted this school year for third through eighth grades have added new local assessments for students -- and the necessary tests -- at the beginning and end of the school year. That's in addition to the state standardized tests, which occur over six days in April and May, and the stand-alone field tests for some districts in some grades.
"There is clearly unrest in the ranks of the parents as well as the professionals," Mitchell said of the amount of additional testing for teacher evaluations. "This is happening across the nation. Improving teaching and learning should not have to create such dissension."
Some school districts allow students to quietly read at their desks - or make other accomodations - if they choose not to take field tests.
Bianca Tanis, a New Paltz mom, said she objects to students being used as "test subjects." She works with the group ReThinking Testing MidHudson, which is informing parents about the use of field tests.