Thursday, October 25, 2012

NYC Schools Face Another Wave of For-Profit Field Testing

Parents and Educators Protest Unsound Testing Policies

If you want to help in this fight, join our Change the Stakes group.


October 24, 2012

NYC Schools Face Another Wave of For-Profit Field Testing as
Parents and Educators Protest Unsound Testing Policies

Reference material on this week’s field tests and additional updates on challenges to New York City and State’s high stakes testing programs and policies

Pearson’s New York State Field Tests

The New York State Education Department has assigned 169 NYC schools (559 schools statewide) to administer stand-alone field tests to children in grades 3-9 this week.  The stated purpose for October field testing is to try out questions for future testing products. This is the third time this year that public school children in NYC have been subjected to experimental testing solely for the benefit of the state’s test development contractor, NCS Pearson, Inc. 

NYC children are expected to participate in this for-profit research effort despite the fact that parents have received no notification.  Change the Stakes reaffirms the position our organization took in the spring that the State Education Department and NYC Department of Education must notify families of affected students and only administer field tests to students for whom explicit consent has been obtained. 

Earlier in the month, Change the Stakes joined ParentVoicesNY and Time Out From Testing in an effort to educate and inform parents at NYC schools selected for October field testing.  As a result, we have heard from parents and educators from across the state looking for information on ways to challenge this unfair practice.

New York City’s Assessment Policies are Failing Students and Communities

Stand-alone field testing, an ineffective way to try out new test questions, is disruptive to classroom instruction and learning.  Unfortunately, field testing is just part of a larger problem.  In many schools, preparation for high-stakes testing has come to dominate curriculum and instruction, to the exclusion of more-comprehensive, rigorous, and substantive education.  Change the Stakes joins others who argue that inflexible and severely flawed assessment policies waste human and financial resources by narrowing curricula and preventing teachers from using their training and experience to provide optimal educational opportunities for their students, causing particular damage for the most needy and vulnerable students. 

Most New Yorkers are not aware of the excessive amount of testing that occurs in NYC schools throughout the school year. While the State is responsible for the development of standardized tests and the misguided new test score-based teacher evaluation program, specific NYC Department of Education (DOE) policies and practices place ever-mounting pressure to dedicate valuable classroom time and resources to test preparation.
  • DOE student promotion policies, modified this past summer, are still essentially entirely based on test scores from seriously flawed exams.
  • DOE School Progress Reports continue to provide parents and community members with extremely limited and misleading information on the quality of education offered at an individual school.  Despite widespread criticism of this reporting tool, individual school grades continue to guide decisions on school closing and other critical matters.  
Explosion of Parent, Educator and Community Protest across the State

Over the past year more New York parents have begun to fight back against test-driven education by refusing to allow their children to participate in standardized testing.  A number of NYC parents took this action during last April’s annual state exams, and many more refused to participate in field testing conducted in June (press coverage of these actions can be found on the Change the Stakes website).  A number of NYC schools have formed parent committees focused on challenging high-stakes testing policies and practices. 

Over 2,100 parents and other citizens concerned about the impacts of high-stakes testing have signed a Change the Stakes petition calling for a non-punitive process by which New York parents can opt their children out of standardized tests, with many expressing deep concerns about unbalanced and ineffective testing policies. 

Important petition and letter signing efforts spearheaded by other groups include:

1.      New York State Principals Open Letter of Concern Regarding New York State’s APPR (teacher evaluation) Legislation, signed by over 1,500 principals and more than 5,600 supporters
2.      New York State Professor’s Letter to End the Reliance on High Stakes Standardized Testing, signed by more than 1,100 professors and released in June at a press conference at the New York Civil Liberties Union
3.      ParentVoicesNY petition expressing concern about the role of state standardized testing in New York public education

Resolutions calling for an end to unbalanced and ineffective high stakes testing policies include the following:

1.      New York City Council Resolution calling upon the New York State Education Department, the New York State Legislature, and the Governor to re-examine public school accountability systems and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which do not require extensive standardized testing, introduced in June 2012.
2.      Resolutions against high stakes testing adopted by five NYC Community Education Councils (3, 14, 20, 21 and 30) and currently being considered by CEC 6, modeled on the national resolution that originated in Texas and has been passed by hundreds of school boards in that state.
3.      An emergency resolution adopted by the Niagara Region PTA opposing high-stakes testing and calling for the suspension of the statewide testing program for grades 3-8.
Finally, educators such as Carol Burris and Lauren Cohen submitted testimony communicating concern about high stakes testing to the New York Education Reform Commission. 


Change the Stakes ( is a growing group of parents, teachers and other New Yorkers concerned about the harmful effect high stakes-testing is having on our children and our schools.  We oppose the over-emphasis on such tests and misuse of the results for purposes they were never intended to serve. We believe high-stakes testing must be replaced by educationally-sound, reliable and valid forms of student, teacher, and school assessment.

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