On Monday, September 17, many school boards and teachers alike breathed a collective sigh of relief as New York State education officials dropped policy plans that would have punished schools with high testing opt-out rates.
Originally, the state board of regents had made plans requiring schools to use federal money for advertising and encouraging state test participation. According to Times Union, any school with an opt-out rate over 5% would have been penalized.
However, that plan was delayed. Instead, officials extended a 30-day period for comments.
The primary focus of the testing battle centers around children from third to eighth grade who take math and English exams annually. The tests are designed to determine which schools in the state are underperforming.
A significant portion of the opposition came from parents and New York State Teachers United, the major teachers’ union for the state. Some are calling the trend of increasing opt-outs a movement.
And it’s not surprising why. Teachers and parents alike report that testing puts greater and unnecessary stress on children. New York teachers are also wary of any new testing policy, since in recent years Governor Cuomo and other state officials have made attempts to tie student’s test performance to teacher evaluations. It was even suggested that teachers of underperforming students have their tenure revoked. Since such policies were suggested, unions and parents have been hypervigilant about monitoring state testing laws and quick to oppose unfavorable ideas.
Other recent articles shed more light on why state testing lawmakers need to be extremely careful when drafting education policies. Language magazine recently shared a piece discussing why standardized testing can be harmful for minority students.
As Language editor Daniel Ward points out, standardized testing in English is likely not an accurate measure of a student’s learning if their first language, and the language they speak at home, is Spanish.
In places like Prince William County, Virginia, such notions receive significant pushback. Some leaders have even made vehemently defensive statements, including Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman Corey Stewart: “‘[Testing in Spanish] would be a huge disservice to children in our community. If you don’t learn English, you are not going to succeed in America.’”
Daniel Ward goes on to show how standardized test scores can hinder minority students trying to gain access to private, prestigious high schools that use the scores as their basis for admission. Ward argues that using a wider range of testing for measuring talent and progress can help eliminate inequity and unfair disadvantage for all kids, especially minority students. After all, a high school that accepts mostly white student based on test scores is not only misrepresenting the community, but also disadvantaging all students in an increasingly diverse world. Making a school’s identity multinational can help students succeed in the global 21st century. Transforming standardized tests might be a good place to start.