Monday, March 31, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions About Refusing the NYS Tests

Commonly Asked Questions

If my child is likely to do well on the NYS test and he or she refuses to take the test, will their teacher’s APPR score be negatively impacted?

Refusing the tests would not affect a teacher’s APPR Score as long as enough there are enough students tested to obtain a valid score. Interestingly, high achieving students could actually hurt a teacher’s growth score because in many cases they are consistently high achieving and therefore do not show growth beyond what is expected. If enough students refuse the test, there will not be sufficient data to generate a score based on the state tests. Considering that only 30% of students scored proficiently on last year’s exams, that would not necessarily be a bad thing. In this case, the teacher would design their own local assessment in order to gauge student growth and progress.

Will my child lose access to accelerated programs, Academic Intervention Services (AIS) or Special Education Supports if they refuse the test?

In a nutshell, no. State test scores are not sole factor for determining if a student qualifies for AIS. In the absence of state test scores, a district will simply rely more on other measures such a local assessments, reading benchmarks and progress monitoring. State test scores are in no way considered when determining the supports that a special education student will receive. Further more, districts like NPCSD rely on multiple measures when determining access to accelerated programs.

Will our school lose funding if less than 95% of students take the tests?

It is true that NCLB dictates that all districts/schools must have at least 95% participation on state tests in order to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).  According to NCLB, any district/school that does not reach the 95% participation is considered a district/school that “failed to make AYP”.  They must bear this label. 

As part of the ESEA Flexibility Waiver that NYS received from President Obama, no new districts/schools will be identified as “Focus Districts/Schools” until after the end of the 2014-2015 school year.  What this means is that if a district was in good standing in 2011-2012 (and NPCSD was), they would have to fail to meet AYP for the 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-15 school years in order to have their designation changed to a “Focus” or “Priority” School.

What would happen if down the road, a school district, like NPCSD, became a “Focus” school?

For schools that do not receive Title I money, there are zero financial consequences at this point. However, if a district receives Title 1 money, there is a minor consequence. Many of our local districts do receive Title I money. For example, for the 2013-2014, New Paltz CSD will receive $181,311.

 If a district that is currently “In Good Standing,” like NPCSD, were deemed a “Focus” school for the 2015-2016 school year, the school district would be required to set-aside 5-15% of Title money that they have received into a separate “set-aside account.”  The money is NOT taken away from them

What happens to the Title I money that is set-aside? 

This money stays in the district, and the state requires that it be used for state-approved programs and services which might include tutoring for students, parental involvement, etc.  THIS MONEY IS NOT LOST.  And any of this money that is not spent on the state-approved programs and services is returned to the district’s general fund.

If the only reason that a district/school was given “Focus” status in 2015-2016 was because more than 5% of the district/school’s parents decided not to allow their children to participate in harmful tests, then the lawyers of the school district would certainly take notice.  It seems unlikely that a court would allow funding to be impacted in any way due to the actions of informed parents, especially since the district/school has no control over this. 

What about the schools with large numbers of student refusals last year?

To date there has been NO indication of any district/school anywhere in the state being impacted financially for failure to meet the 95% participation rate. Ichabod Crane Middle School near Albany and Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook had over 20% of its students refuse the tests.

BOTTOM LINE:  A school district does NOT lose funding if there is less than 95% participation on state tests.

But what if?

Let’s say that a district/school happens to be Title I.  Let’s assume that they fail the 95% participation rate.  Let’s assume that the ESEA Waiver is imaginary (like Peter Pan). Let’s assume that the district/school is not listed as “Focus” for any other reason other than the 95% participation rate.  Let’s assume that the NYSED forces the district to set aside 15% of their Title I money solely because responsible well-informed parents refuse tests (even though NYSED has never done this to date).  Let’s assume the school district does not stand-up for the children and does not file a lawsuit.  Let’s assume that a court does not intervene to prevent funding loss to school children.  Let’s assume that all of the set-aside money happens to be spent on state approved programs (that are somehow supposed to magically fix the participation rate caused by responsible well-informed parents standing up for their children).  Let’s assume that none of the set-aside money goes back into the general fund.  We know that NPCSD receives $ 181,311 in Title I funding and has to set-aside (15% which amounts to approx. $19,500) and is forced to spend all of it on state approved programs (that won’t fix the participation rate).  Let’s assume that this district has 4,500 taxpaying households. 

Let’s assume that ALL of that above happens (which seem ridiculous).  Then each taxpaying household would have to come up with an extra $4.50 per year to replace the money spent on senseless programs.  Wow!  $4.50 per year???  Still worried about funding???

Why should I consider having my child refuse the NYS state tests?

There is NO evidence to support the premise that tying teacher and school evaluations to test scores will result in increased academic achievement.

No child should ever be compelled to participate in a demoralizing and developmentally inappropriate learning experience against the wishes of parents or caregivers. Parents must give permission for students to participate in sports and sex education, but State Education does not believe that parents should have a say in their child’s test participation.

These tests do NOT benefit the individual child in any way. Scores are not given until the following school year and even then provide next to NO information regarding the student’s individual performance. The tests yield NO data can be used to help the individual student.

Excessive testing takes away approximately 25% of our children's academic school year. The amount of time that a 3rd grader will spend on NYS tests exceeds the time spent taking Medical Boards and the Bar Exam, voluntary examinations undertaken by adults.

Excessive testing forces teachers to "teach to the test.” Schools may say that they do not “teach to the test” but despite the best intentions, this is not true. When 20-40% percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on state test scores, this creates a siutation whereby a teacher must choose between delivering instruction that they know to be sound and delivering instruction that will focus on test taking strategies and what is “on the test” in order to safeguard their employment.

Attaching teacher evaluations to state scores destroys teacher autonomy. - Teachers can no longer choose the pace of instruction that they feel is most appropriate for their students.They must adhere to the strict and relentless pace set by the tests.

Excessive focus on test scores narrows the curriculum. The arts and music are short changed as there is no state measure in these areas.

Excessive testing teaches children that there is only one right answer in academics and in life.Students are encouraged to learn formulaic methods of reading and writing in order to score maximum credit on the tests.Outside of the box thinking is not encouraged.

Excessive testing costs millions of dollars of taxpayer money to produce and thousands of dollars of our school district's money to implement.School districts will incure expenses in the tens of millions of dollars to implement the unfunded mandates set forth by Race to the Top.

Refusing the test is the ONLY POWER that parents have to take back public education from corporate interests. Refusing the tests is the ONLY POWER that parents have to ensure the quality of their child’s education. Despite listening to the concerns and outrage of thousands of parents and educators for months, Commissioner of Education John King and the NYS Board of Regents insist that they will continue to carry out their reform agenda without delay.


  1. Almost all the nations that beat us in education use high-stakes, standardized tests. The difference is, the tests are to judge the students. Not to judge the teacher.

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