Friday, May 29, 2015

Change the Stakes: Open Letter to Carmen Fariña INFORM PARENTS OF THE UPCOMING FIELD TESTS

...stand-alone field testing constitutes a fig leaf covering the State Education Department and Pearson’s incompetence in managing the state’s testing program. It provides the appearance but not the reality of credible test construction. ... CTS to Farina
CTS, the NYC leading opt out group, is being amongst the honorees on June 9 by Leonie Haimson/Class Size Matters at the Skinny (not Broad) Awards event. Through the efforts of our own Fred Smith, the Field Tests using our kids as guinea pigs by Pearson is being foisted on so many kids and so schools. The CTS crew wrote the

You can still get tickets and be in the company of the leading forces battling ed deform here in the city. And you can also support the opt out movement by attending or donating to assist in the work Leonie and Class Size Matters is doing. Click here.

 
 
Open Letter to the Chancellor - Carmen Fariña INFORM PARENTS OF THE UPCOMING FIELD TESTS 
 

INFORM PARENTS OF THE UPCOMING FIELD TESTS

May 28, 2015
Dear Chancellor Fariña,

We urgently ask you to inform all parents in New York City about the stand-alone field tests due to be given starting next week. The tests target 1,013 schools and approximately 135,000 children, and the state is trying once again to have schools administer them without any obligation to inform parents that this is happening.

The rapidly growing rebellion against state-mandated testing is about one thing: parents asserting our constitutional right to determine the shape of our children’s educations.  We want teachers, parents and local communities to run our schools—not corporations and privateers.  This is also one of your strongly proclaimed objectives.

Perpetuating high-stakes testing has been the core means by which for-profit corporations and the politicians they back have attempted to usurp authority over our schools. Stand-alone field testing is the expedient but discredited method Pearson has followed to generate test items and preserve its hold on the educational marketplace. The approach has resulted in the development of low-quality ELA and math exams to which our children, their teachers and we have been painfully subjected.

This is not just a philosophical argument over who should control public education and the fortunes of our children, although it certainly is that. 

There are three basic problems with stand-alone field tests all parents should be concerned about:

1)    Stand-alone field testing does not come close to reflecting best industry practices. It has been deemed by testing experts to be an inadequate way to develop test questions, because children do not take the exercise seriously. The information gained from the field tests is inherently unreliable and has repeatedly led to abominable ELA and math exams.

2)    Even if it met professional criteria for producing high-quality test material, field testing  constitutes product development for commercial purposes that demands disclosure and should require informed consent by parents before children are allowed to participate.

3)    In short, stand-alone field testing constitutes a fig leaf covering the State Education Department and Pearson’s incompetence in managing the state’s testing program. It provides the appearance but not the reality of credible test construction.

We appreciate the change in Department of Education policy that recognized the right of parents to refuse their children’s participation in the statewide tests. We know it also applies to field tests, but here we believe the situation requires a separate action.

We ask that you immediately inform all parents precisely when and where the coming field tests will be administered.  We further request that you simultaneously direct principals to advise parents that children are not required to take them. Principals ought to obtain the written consent of parents whose children are targeted for testing—allowing their children to participate. The DOE could set up the same kind of protocol it uses to gain parental permission for children to go on field trips.

In the past four years there has been no advance notice to parents that field tests were being given, much less an effort to obtain consent.  This includes your first year as the Chancellor when your spokeswoman Devora Kaye reportedly said, “We understand the frustration among parents and educators with the frequency of testing. This (field testing) is one of many practices we plan to review this summer and evaluate for the coming year” [Juan Gonzalez, Daily News, June 4, 2014].  What conclusions have you drawn about addressing that frustration, which has only grown this past year? Surely our request for greater transparency is one that you can meet.

The grass roots opt-out movement has been fueled by an increasing awareness of both the misuses of the tests and their alignment with the Common Core, which ever-growing numbers of parents reject.  The opposition will accelerate as more parents realize the state is not only forcing the use of test scores for purposes they never were intended to serve, but is also using the current secrecy surrounding the development and content of the tests to conceal a fundamentally unsound product.

Whatever your own opinion of the role of state tests in our education system, please take action immediately to support the right of parents in New York City to be fully informed about, and to give or deny consent for, their children’s participation in NYSED and Pearson’s June field tests. As you said in a news report on WNYC just the other day, “If you want to make real change, everyone in the community has to buy in.” Parents cannot buy into Pearson’s experimental field testing if they do not know it is happening.

Respectfully,
The parents and educators of Change the Stakes

changethestakes.org
changethestakes@gmail.org
changethestakespress@gmail.com

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