State standardized tests for third through eighth graders start Tuesday, but not every student will be sitting down to take them. In a show of protest against high-stakes testing, parents across New York City are opting to keep their children from taking the tests and parent activists predict record numbers will join their effort this spring.
Hundreds of families across 33 schools in the city are taking part in the boycott, according to the group Time Out From Testing. Two other organizations concerned about the tests are Change the Stakes and Parent Voices NY. Speaking to reporters on Monday one parent member of Time Out from Testing argued that the testing took weeks away from substantive learning and placed unnecessary stress on students and teachers to perform well.
“We’re not against testing, but we want meaningful tests,” said Cynthia Copeland, a parent of a fourth-grader at a school in East Village that she would not identify. She said that tests shouldn't be weighted as heavily as they are regarding issues such as promotion decisions, teacher evaluations, school report card grades and the closing of schools.
Evelyn Cruz, an East Harlem parent of a 12-year-old, said she noticed her son losing a love for learning with all the stress on test preparations at his school.
“I have a sixth-grader who’s passionate about math and language arts and they’re killing his passion,” said Cruz who also refused to name her son's school. “He tells me, ‘mom pick me up early, take me out.’”
She said she's also opting her son out of the exams because of the new Common Core learning standards, which are guidelines that set tougher goals for student performance. Department of Education officials, she said, have repeatedly admitted that scores are likely to drop given the intentional lack of student preparation.
“So it’s going to reflect negative on all of us,” Cruz said, referencing parents, teachers and administration. “From the top to the bottom, we are creating an environment of failure.”
Education officials have been taking to the airwaves and school visits to warn of lower test scores this year because the tests are harder. But this seems unfair to some parents.
"They expect the children to not pass the exam this year. So if you're doing this, then why have them go through this?" Copeland asked.
There is no official provision that allows students to opt out of the tests, and the consequences for doing so are vague.
“We really encourage folks to push past the anxiety that they’re feeling and do this with us,” said the city’s Chief Academic Officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky. Speaking in a Friday interview on the Brian Lehrer Show, he added: “I think it’s going to improve the quality of our classrooms and it’s going to benefit our young people in the long run”
The English Language Arts exams for third through eighth grade students will take place over the next three days and will be followed next week by the state math tests for those grades. SchoolBook offers sample questions and answers many of your questions about the state tests here.