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Guest Column

March 29, 2014

Don't opt-in for high-stakes testing


The biggest fear tactic aimed at parents is that our schools will be punished financially. Last year many schools failed to comply with the state’s participation regulations because of high numbers of refusals, including Ichabod Crane Elementary/ Middle School which had an incredible 26 percent opt-out rate.

The bottom line is that there have been zero reports of schools losing money because well-informed parents did the right thing by “opting out.” There is no harm in “opting out.” But there is great harm in opting in as we perpetuate a test-driven type of education.

Standardized testing is just one limited means to gauge student progress. They measure only a fraction of what is important; create a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning; and narrow curricula while ignoring valuable programs and subjects outside of ELA and math.

The state tests, in particular, do not benefit instruction as the material is a copyrighted secret and the results take too long to come back to educators, and then without student-specific information that makes the results useful.

These high-stakes tests are an unreliable snapshot in time that unfairly judge children, teachers, and schools. Worse, the reliance on high-stakes testing is damaging the culture of our schools, and reducing our children’s classrooms to test preparation centers.

Parents know that their children are more than a number. Unfortunately, the data-driven agenda of the state education department has ignored concerns repeatedly expressed by tens of thousands of parents and educators across New York State. Refusing the NYS tests in grades 3-8 is an act of responsible parenting. We are our children’s best advocates, and we must stand up for what we know is, not only sound educational practices, but good parenting.

Veteran Oneonta educator Ken Sider, speaking to a standing-room only crowd at an Oneonta Area for Public Education event at SUNY Oneonta, said: “As a parent, if my daughter were in elementary school today, I would exercise my right to have her refuse the tests. I see no good reason to voluntarily participate in a testing program that is not only anxiety-producing and unjust, but optional.”

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