Tuesday, May 22, 2012

PRESS RELEASE - Change The Stakes Demands Full Disclosure of School Testing Program

 The primary purpose of the June stand-alone testing period is to allow Pearson, the State’s education testing contractor, to perform research for operational exams it will then sell to the SED.  The State is on record as stating participation in field testing is “not mandatory,” yet schools and parents in New York City have been kept in the dark and not advised that they have a choice about whether or not their children should participate.
-----Excerpt from Change the Stakes Press release

UPDATE: Read Gotham Story: With field tests approaching, parents are reprising protests

One of the beauties of working with the groups I've been involved in has been watching as each groups shows the flexibility to spin off other groups that manage to find their own niche. Thus ICE spun off GEM which became a separate group that evolved into something quite different from what was intended --- a focus on the defense of public education and to battle charter schools, very different from the ICE focus on the UFT. Then GEM spun off a committee called Change the Stakes to focus on high stakes testing (which ironically, was one of the original goals of GEM but got lost in the shuffle somewhat).

What a pleasure to see the CTS group evolve from teacher dominated to parent and teachers working in concert as it attracted many amazing parents, some active for the first time, who were objecting to their kids being subjected to high stakes tests.

I've followed the evolution of this press release for the past 10 days and the work put in has been remarkable. Painful at times, but remarkable. And I think a remarkable outcome. I mostly stayed out of it ---- there were so many quality points made and the democratic debate taking place, so far away from anything going on in the UFT, makes me kvell.

I'm a little late in getting this up so I just copied and pasted from Leonie's blog. More on this coming tomorrow based on the wonderful work being done by our testing expert, Fred Smith. And more coming from two other groups, Parent Voices NY and Time Out From Testing. All of this is an opening salvo in what promises to be a major movement in this city and nationally to fight back against high stakes testing, which will hopefully include a new film by GEM/Real Reform Studios on HST. And yes, expect the UFT, while making an occasional squeak about the evils of the tests, to remain on the sideline.

Elementary and middle schools in NYC will be administering field tests in June.
Do you know which grades in your school will be tested?
Read our press release
Click on your school’s borough to find out which grade and subject will be tested in your school.
Take a stand against high stakes testing!


Change the Stakes demands full disclosure of testing program, including field tests in June

Unbeknownst to most parents, the state is imposing yet another round of standardized testing in June. You can check to see what grade your child's elementary or middle school is field testing here.  High schools are also field testing the Regents; more more information here and here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                     Contact: changethestakes@gmail.com                                                               
May 21, 2012                                                                         
CTS Demands Full Disclosure of School Testing Program
Calls Pearson’s June Field Tests a Waste of Time and Money
 New York City – Change the Stakes, a coalition of parents and educators in New York City, announces its opposition to the latest round of standardized testing, the stand-alone field tests that are scheduled to be given in June.  Over a thousand (1,029) public elementary and middle schools in the city are scheduled to participate in this additional statewide testing.  Last week, science field testing took place in 116 other New York City schools.
The price tag for this extra developmental testing is conservatively estimated to be $3 million. It comes on top of the six days (540 minutes) of regularly scheduled English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams administered just last month, when the items being field tested were embedded within the state-mandated tests.  This doubled the amount of time needed to complete the exams. 
The New York State Education Department (SED) and test publisher, NCS Pearson, Inc., have not provided advance notice to the public about the June field tests nor sufficiently explained why they are necessary. Moreover, testing experts regard stand-alone testing as a dubious practice at best, and virtually useless when conducted so very late in the school year.
“June is a terrible time of year to test children—be it operational or field testing,” asserts Fred Smith, a test specialist formerly with the city Department of Education (DOE). “The expectation that children will be motivated to perform at their best near the end of the year doesn’t even rise to the level of wishful thinking,” stated Mr. Smith.  He also points out that stand-alone field testing by SED was discredited for yielding misleading data on which to develop new tests. “In 2009, SED’s test advisers acknowledged this approach was problematic because students who took the exams knew they were experimental.”
SED’s elementary and intermediate school field tests will be administered between June 5th and 15th.  Most schools will test only one grade between 3rd through 8th; however, 259 (23%) of the schools are being asked to give the experimental exams on two grade levels.  (Change the Stakes is providing user-friendly information about all field test school and grade assignments broken down by borough at changethestakes.org. Parents can visit the website to find out what tests are due to be given this June in their children’s schools.)
The primary purpose of the June stand-alone testing period is to allow Pearson, the State’s education testing contractor, to perform research for operational exams it will then sell to the SED.  The State is on record as stating participation in field testing is “not mandatory,” yet schools and parents in New York City have been kept in the dark and not advised that they have a choice about whether or not their children should participate.
“Our kids are being used as guinea pigs for the financial benefit of Pearson, to the detriment of their own educational experience,” said Deyanira Ruiz, who has a daughter in a grade that has been selected for field testing.  “They’ve already lost untold hours to test prep and the April math and literacy exams, reducing the amount of time devoted to art, physical education, social studies, and languages,” she added. 
Some teachers are questioning the use of valuable class time for field testing. Lauren Cohen, a teacher in Manhattan, is fed up. “Far too many of us teach in schools that already face enormous pressure to dedicate an excessive amount of classroom time to test preparation between September and April.  My school received a notice, on Pearson letterhead, informing us that we must also give an ELA field test to 3rd graders in June,” she said.  “Field tests supply no useful information to teachers or educational benefits to children. My students are burnt out on testing, and this meaningless drudgery will take away valuable learning time,” stated Ms. Cohen. 
Fueling a rebellion among parents against the upcoming field tests is the disclosure to date of roughly 30 errors, along with some questionable content, on the tests administered in April. The state forbids the disclosure of test items, further undermining parent confidence in the exams themselves. Diana Zavala, parent of a 3rd grader in Manhattan, contends, “Transparency and accountability should also apply to the corporations making the tests. If we are to believe these tests are worthwhile and that the company is making ‘better tests,’ we should be able to examine them.” She added, “but what we really want is more teaching, less testing, and assessment that is more connected to the actual learning that takes place in the classroom.”
Change the Stakes is Calling for the Following Regarding June Field Testing:
  1. The DOE should immediately disclose specific information about the stand-alone field tests, explaining their nature and purpose and notifying parents of children in the 1,029 field test schools about the dates the tests are scheduled to be given.
  2. Pearson and the SED should address the claim by independent testing experts that the timing and format of these tests make it unlikely they will generate reliable data needed to develop valid operational exams.
  1. SED and DOE should allow parents and entire schools to opt out of participating and only administer field tests to students in schools/grades for whom explicit parental consent has been granted.  The need to obtain authorization to test their children from parents or guardians should extend to all testing when the main objective is to support research and development for commercial testing products.
  2. Non-participating students in schools and grades undergoing testing should have a meaningful educational alternative activity during the testing period.
To schedule interviews with parents or teachers, please contact Andrea Mata @ changethestakes@gmail.com. Testing expert Fred Smith can be reached at fjstats@aol.com
Change the Stakes, a committee of the Grassroots Education Movement, was formed to expose the damaging effects of high-stakes standardized tests. We are a group of parents and teachers working to build and unite opposition to high stakes testing in New York City. Our membership includes a group of parents who refused to have their children tested during the regular State exam period in April 2012.  We believe high-stakes testing must be replaced by more educationally-sound and balanced forms of student, teacher, and school assessment.  
See our online petition demanding that New York State develop a non-punitive process by which parents concerned about the impacts of high-stakes testing on student learning can opt their children out of standardized tests.
Change the Stakes collaborates with other groups working to challenge high-stakes testing in New York, including Parent Voices NY and Time Out From Testing

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