Friday, April 4, 2014

NYC Parent Urges Farina and King to Cancel Upcoming Math Exam

There was no rigor applied to the development of these tests, nor does the practice of high-stakes testing in general stand up to critical analysis....I was offended by your remarks earlier this week to the effect that while parents' opinions should be respected, children should come to school prepared to meet challenges like the state tests...
I honestly believe it is time for insurrection at the local level... I want de Blasio and Farina to unequivocally condemn these tests and call those who inflicted them us to account.
......Jeff Nichols, NYC parent opt-outer
Read Jeff's comments regarding the motivation of this letter below. Jeff and his wife Anne Stone are Change the Stakes stalwarts..
Dear Commissioner King and Chancellor Fariña,
Events are moving very fast. You are no doubt aware that today the principal, staff and parents of one of the most highly regarded schools In New York City, PS 321 in Brooklyn, will be holding a protest outside their schools to decry the abysmal quality of this year's ELA tests. You have probably read the astonishing comments from teachers and principals that continue to pour into the the New York City Public School Parents blog and other sites (http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2014/04/liz-phillips-brooklyn-principal-i-have.html).

I have not yet heard your view of this situation, Chancellor Fariña. But as an opt out parent, I have to tell you frankly I was offended by your remarks earlier this week to the effect that while parents' opinions should be respected, children should come to school prepared to meet challenges like the state tests.
Have you not realized that parents are protesting the tests precisely because we want our kids challenged deeply by real learning in our schools and these tests are obstructing that goal? Have you not realized that NYSED's and Pearson's claims that these tests represent new levels of "rigor" and "critical thinking" are demonstrably false?
There was no rigor applied to the development of these tests, nor does the practice of high-stakes testing in general stand up to critical analysis, so I fail to see how taking the state tests represents a worthwhile challenge for any child.

Moreover, Commissioner King, I cannot accept the state's intention to keep the tests secret from parents. My wife and I are responsible for all aspects of our children's upbringing. We would not permit a doctor to administer a vaccine to our children and forbid us from knowing what is in the shot. We will not let you subject our children to any exercise in school while forbidding us to know its contents, much less tests that are being used to determine their promotion and whether or not their teachers will be fired.
The forced, secret high-stakes testing of minor children is going to go the way of cane switches, dunce caps and forcing left-handed children to write with their right hands -- practices that were once commonplace that we now regard as child abuse. It's only a matter of time.

The question is, will our local and state education leaders join together and stop this travesty? Given the fact that the NYSED and the Pearson corporation have again utterly failed the test of earning parents' and educators' confidence in the quality of these exams, why should our schools proceed with administering the math tests later this month? Can you give me any reason other than obedience for obedience's sake? All I hear from you, Commissioner King, is slogans about higher standards and career readiness. I have yet to witness direct engagement by you with the arguments made by the thousands of educators and parents in our state who are advocate abandoning high-stakes testing of young children once and for all.
I call on you, Commissioner King, to suspend the administration of this year's state tests, and if you fail to do that (as I expect you will) I call on you, Chancellor Fariña to refuse to administer them.
We have lemon laws protecting consumers from egregiously faulty consumer products, but we no one is protecting our children from these worthless exams. Chancellor Fariña, they are state tests, so you can blame Commissioner King and the legislature for them, but you are ultimately responsible for our city's schools. You must ensure that no one forces educational malpractice upon them. If NYSED continues to ignore the protests against the state tests that are exploding across the state, and you allow the math exams exams to go forward, the public will hold the DOE accountable as well as NYSED and the U.S. Department of Education.
We now have teachers in this city and beyond refusing to administer the state tests and parents refusing to allow their children to take them. Chancellor Fariña, will you stand with these disobedient citizens, or will you stand with Arne Duncan and John King and insist that the tests must go forward regardless of their quality, because an unjust law says they must?

I hope both of you will acknowledge that finally, enough is enough. Suspend the state tests and bring daylight onto the whole process that led to this debacle.

Sincerely,
Jeff Nichols


One parent thought Jeff should address King and not Farina since she has no control. Jeff begged to differ:
I know, of course you're right, these matters are outside Farina's and de Blasio's control. I know at one level my demand make no sense.
But for the sake of argument, the tests are also outside the control of teachers who are now starting to refuse to administer the exams and are risking their jobs to do so. And they are outside the control of parents boycotting them. At the grass-roots level, test refusal is exploding. Is it truly impossible for our city officials to join us?

As a negative example, we have the history of leaders in the south defying federal orders of integration in the 1960s. As a positive one, we have Obama's administration refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, in a sense defying Congress, which has the authority to make laws the president must obey.

Officials can and do at times take a position contrary to the directives of authorities higher than themselves when they believe an inviolable principle is at stake.

By the way, can Tisch and King suspend the exams, or does the order to give them technically rest with the legislature? Who could legally suspend the tests?

I regard NYSED as utterly hopeless, which is why I am not bothering to talk to them. I honestly believe it is time for insurrection at the local level, and NYC is a pretty darned sizable locality. And moreover what I really want is something less than what I demand -- I want de Blasio and Farina to unequivocally condemn these tests and call those who inflicted them us to account.

Jeff

1 comment:

  1. I wish there were more parents like Jeff Nichols. The parents have the power. No one can force their children to take the test. And parents who were outraged that their children were forced to sit and stare while opting out could teach their children a lesson in civil disobedience. I know people who are discussing having their children vocally protest during the math test so they must be removed from the room. I'm not sure if in the end they will submit their children to this----not every kid can handle this emotionally. But parents know their kids better than anyone so the decision to do something like this is in their hands as well. Had all of this been going on when I was a student, this definitely would have been a topic of conversation around my dinner table and I like to think my opinionated parents would have encouraged me to protest for myself if I was forced to sit and stare. When you are right, you don't back down and you don't take "no" for an answer was instilled in me by my parents at a young age. Although my parents were probably in the minority, I am sure there are other parents like this out there today. Empower you children to defend themselves if the family consensus is that sitting and staring is abusive. Save Obedience for obedience's sake for North Korea or the Taliban. America can do better.
    Roseanne McCosh

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