New Yorker Blog features BNS
Rebecca Mead has written a brilliant blog post for “The New Yorker” explaining why parents plan to opt their children out of NewYork’s Common Core testing in 2014.The New Yorker piece is about the work of BNS principal Anna Allanbrook who is a hero to the people opposing high stakes testing.
It Is as succinct an explanation as I have read, and it is vivid because the writer is a parent in a progressive public school that teaches students to think for themselves. The principal of the Brooklyn New School has spoken out against the cruel and unusual demands of the tests but she must comply, by law. The parents, however, have a special interest: their children.
Janine Sopp from Change the Stakes and a parent at the school sent this out:
I'm sharing this letter as our community takes steps forward, slowly. There is so much fear in parents about what opting out will mean for their children, even though our administration is very supportive. See if this is something you may want to adopt or adapt for your community. I'm pasting the script we used when calling below Anna's letter. I hope you find this helpful.Here is the letter to the parents and the survey they were asked to fill out. Anna is doing true education of parents about the reality to testing. Of course we always need to point out that BNS is at a higher level of socio-economic than most schools. The case against testing is registering with these folks around the city. The challenge is to break through to the higher poverty districts where parents still see testing as a path to success.
Many thanks to the one hundred and forty-four parents who completed the survey on testing. We are reading all of your responses and appreciate getting this type of specific and honest feedback. If you didn’t have a chance to do this yet, it’s not too late. You can find the survey at
As we continue this discussion on testing, we want to take a moment to reflect on the three sessions on high stakes testing that occurred last week. We met with parents on Sunday afternoon, Wednesday morning and Thursday evening. On Sunday, fourth grade teacher, Cora, and I joined parents at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, while on Wednesday, Regina, the Assistant Principal, was also present. Thursday evening, third grade teacher, Diane, was on hand for the discussion. What was most interesting was the difference in each of the sessions. We went from Sunday’s meeting in which there was lots of give and take around the many parent questions on testing to Wednesday’s session where the conversation focused in on the pros and cons of testing for the individual child to Thursday’s discussion, which zeroed in on how big business and politics are benefitting from testing.
At the Thursday presentation, parents really wanted to learn more about Pearson, the British multinational company that currently makes the state tests. Not only does Pearson publish and sell test preparation guidebooks, but they also publish and sell curriculum guides, class workbooks and homework workbooks. As well, Pearson sells guides that families can use if their children don't pass the test, as preparation for the next test.
At http://www.edexcellence.net, a website of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Kathleen Porter-Magee writes, “By developing both the test and curriculum materials, Pearson will basically control the market, regardless of the quality of their materials. After all, if you were a New York principal and learned that Pearson included passages from their curriculum on the state test—the results of which are used to inform everything from student to teacher to school accountability—whose curriculum would you buy?” Pearson also has contracts with universities who often purchase their textbooks. And starting in May, Pearson Education will oversee the evaluation system known as the Teacher Performance Assessment for New York State. It will be Pearson who will review the videos of prospective teachers when they apply for licenses from the state. In 2011, Pearson had net earnings of 1.5 billion dollars in the United States.
In the spring, our fifth grade students finish up their elementary education with a social justice curriculum with the guiding question, “What are you willing to stand up for?” As parents and educators, this is the very question that we could be asking ourselves. If we fundamentally believe that these high stakes exams are wrong for our children, our schools, our cities, and the greater society and if we believe that the data achieved from the tests does not define our children or their teachers, then perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “What are we willing to stand up for?” As Thomas Jefferson said at the time of the Shays Rebellion, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing... It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."
All for now,
I am a parent of a child at PS __________, on _______ Street in __________. We are planning a series of informational meetings at our school for parents who want to know more about high stakes testing and their options in response to these exams. One question parents have is about the use of ELA and math test scores and the middle school admissions process. We are contacting middle schools that our students apply to for answers to these questions, which we will share with parents at our upcoming meetings.
Here are our questions for you:Do you use state test scores when considering a child for admission to
___________?If you do, how do you handle applications from students who come in without state test scores? (from private schools, etc)How will you handle applications from students who don't have a score because their parents opted them out of the tests and guarantee them the same consideration as students with test scores?What, if anything, would you ask for from parents or teachers to ensure that an alternative application process will be fully supported?I'd be glad to talk with you in person if you want to send a phone number.