Thursday, May 1, 2014

Video and Press Release: NYC High School Teachers Refuse to Administer Test

International HS at Prospect Hts has children from 35 nations speaking about 25 languages. Making them sit through a MOSL test that has nothing to do with their education but only to do with rating their teachers is obscene. These 30 teachers said NO.

Was this event worth getting 5 hours sleep? Hell yes. Below this photo is the video of the press conference held across the street from the Prospect Hts Campus where the International School is located. I was so proud to be associated with these teachers, who not only made a stand but articulated their views so clearly. For the first 7 minutes they read their letter to Farina 9which you can read at The rest is the excellent Q and A with the press, some of whom asked some excellent questions and got even more excellent responses. Advocating for teacher made assessments (not Pearson), one reporter from Epoch Times (who asked impressive questions) brought up the issue of standardized tests. Listen to Steve's (the gentleman in the white beard) fabulous response. Rosie and Emily were right on as always and the other teachers who spoke were too.

Note some of Geoff Decker's (from Chalkbeat) questions as he probes for the dividing lines between teachers and the DOE and the UFT -- who he points out were united on opposing what the teachers were doing (not surprised, are you?) Geoff did his job as a reporter and the teachers did theirs by not putting their feet into those waters. Their restraint and discipline was impressive (you know I would have jumped down the DOE and union's throats -- thus the youth leads the aged.)

I should point out - since a reporter later told me he assumed MORE organized this - that it was the teachers at the school who organized this - with the support of MORE, NYCORE and Change the Stakes, all of whom blasted out the story and provided moral and logistical support. I believe the role these groups played is a long-term one -- providing a sense of support and empowerment based on working with each other in a free and democratic atmosphere. See - democracy does work. And darn, working with them is so energizing, my tendency to not leave my house is easy to overcome just to be with them.

UPDATE: And Jia Lee and the rest of the Earth School crew, some of whom who also opted out of giving the test send support:

NYC High School Teachers Refuse to Administer Test

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Thursday May 1st, 2014

Contacts:  Janine Sopp,, (917) 541-6062
Emily Wendlake,, (413) 657-7255
Emily Giles,, (917) 575-2936
Rosie Frascella,, (917) 767-1001
Anita Feingold-Shaw,, (510) 872-1712

Teachers and Staff at International High School at Prospect Heights refuse to administer the NYC ELA Performance Assessment Test

New York – On Thursday, May 1, 2014, most of the teachers at International High School at Prospect Heights gathered on the steps of their school to announce that they will not give the NYC English Language Arts Performance Assessment Exam.  More than 50% of parents have opted their students out of taking the test, and 30 teachers and staff refused to administer the exam citing professional and ethical concerns.  Approximately 95% of the students at IHSPH are English Language Learners. Thirty-five percent of students are classified as Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE), meaning they have missed more than one year of school.

The test is not used for promotion and does not factor into student grades. The test has not been aligned to assess English Language Learners and will be used exclusively for the purpose of evaluating teachers.

Teachers are refusing to give the test todaybecause they say it was constructed and formatted without any thought for the 14% of New York City students for whom English is not their first language.

 Teresa Edwards-Lasose, a parent who opted her student out, said, “The test is meaningless.  He (her child) doesn’t  read and write enough English yet to do the test and it doesn’t count for his grades.  Why should he take it?”

The level of English used on the exam is so far above the language levels of the school’s recent immigrant student population that it provides little or no information about their language or academic proficiencies. Despite students’ best efforts and determination, the vast majority of them received zero points.

Anita Feingold-Shaw, a 9th and 10th grade English teacher at IHSPH said, “This test doesn’t benefit students, but it definitely hurts them and that feels unfair.”  Many of the students that took the test in the fall did not yet read or write in English.  And yet, this test asked them to read pages and pages with no translation support and write an argumentative essay in English.

“I watched students just put their heads down and give up.  A few students even cried,” says Emily Wendlake, another 9th and 10th grade English teacher at the school. “Testing experiences like this make our students feel like failures, and that school is not for them.  We feel the consequences in our classes for the rest of the year.”

More Background
Their action happens to fall on May Day, which in New York City, has become a day where the demands of immigrant rights are center stage.  Their decision to abstain from the test, they say, is ultimately one of educational justice for their immigrant student population.  “Our students deserve every second of class time to be engaging, meaningful and relevant to their lives.  This test is the opposite – oppressive, irrelevant to their learning and demoralizing,” said Giles, a science teacher at the school.  “Why wouldn’t we refuse to give it?”
Teachers at Prospect Heights draw a connection between the struggles of English Language Learners and immigrant rights. This is not the first time that the school community has organized around the rights of their students.  Last year, after watching many of their top students unable to attend college because of financial constraints, teachers created the International Dreamers Scholarship Fund.  The fund provides scholarships to undocumented students that cannot receive government funding for higher education. Last year the school community raised $35,000 and provided full scholarships to two undocumented students.
Ultimately, they’re asking that Chancellor FariƱa reconsider the use of this assessment with English Language Learners in favor of measurements created by teachers.

The International High School at Prospect Heights is a public high school located in Brooklyn, NY.  Read their letter to Chancellor Farina at

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