We are a coalition of educators motivated by a desire to provide our students with an authentic, developmentally appropriate, culturally relevant, and child-centered public education. As we near the 2016 testing season, hundreds of thousands of young learners will be asked to submit to 9 hours of flawed and harmful state assessments that, reduce teaching and learning to a test score, narrow the curriculum, label the majority of children failures, squander resources, and provide no educational benefit.
While the opt out movement has captured the attention of policymakers, there has been no substantive change. In fact, nothing has changed in our public schools. The only thing that has changed is that school districts must now use limited time and resources to negotiate another APPR plan that requires more testing for NYS children and a continued focus on evaluating teachers on test scores.
Despite this glaring lack of relief for students, the state teachers union, NYSUT, has failed to sound the alarm and instead, has launched a million dollar member-funded “multi-media campaign to highlight progress.” While a campaign video vaguely states that “there is still a lot of work to do”, the campaign is absent of any call to action. A similar campaign by the UFT, the state’s largest local union based in NYC, goes so far as to spread misinformation, making the false claim that teachers will not be evaluated by test scores for the next 4 years. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As educators, we are committed to sharing factual information so that those impacted by these policies can make informed decisions. Here are the facts:
- The Education Transformation Act of 2015 requires that 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on a student performance measure. This will not change unless the law is amended. Teachers, under the moratorium will be rated on a locally determined assessment per the law.
- During the 4 year moratorium, state provided growth scores for the state ELA and Math tests in grades 3-8 may not be used in teacher evaluations.
- However, teachers who receive a growth score based on the state ELA and math tests will still be subject to a 50% test based evaluation as per the law. Schools must administer an additional, locally determined assessment (approved by the state department of education) and scores from that test will supplant the state test derived growth score in a teacher’s evaluation. Same evaluation, different test.
- Teachers will receive a “transitional score” during the moratorium. 50% of this score will be based on observation, and 50% will be based on a test. This transitional score will be used for making tenure decisions and as per the law and can be used to fire a teacher.
- While growth scores derived from the state tests may not be used for purposes of evaluation during the moratorium, they will still be recorded and upon request, be made available to parents.
- Once the moratorium is over, NYS will move to a three year average growth score. In other words, teachers will receive a growth score based on student performance from the previous 3 years. It is unclear whether or not state test growth scores captured during the moratorium will be used in the average growth score in 2019.
- Schools, based on flawed growth scores, will continue to be placed into receivership and subject to autocratic control. This will happen disproportionately in schools located in economically disadvantaged Black and Brown communities, as laid out in the Economic Policy Institute’s report, “The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools, and Segregated Neighborhoods – A Constitutional Insult”.
NYSUT officials responded to educators on social media calling for NYSUT to pursue an amendment to the law, by stating that they believe the Regents will enact the 21 recommendations of the Common Core Task Force. It should be noted that the Task Force has not recommended ANY changes to the focus on test scores in teacher evaluations making this response irrelevant. While the task force pays lip service to the need for shorter tests, it fails to recommend any substantial change. For example, the Task Force report calls upon New York to follow the examples set by North Carolina, Texas, and New Mexico. The testing practices in these States are hardly positive role models for a reduction in testing. In North Carolina, testing has been reduced to a one day, four hour exam. In Texas, testing has been capped forcing the average student to sit for 120 minutes with no administration lasting more than eight hours. And in New Mexico, testing has been reduced by a paltry 15%. In New York, that would reduce 9 hours of testing for 10 year olds to 7.5 hours and some students with disabilities would still be forced to endure 15 hours of testing. This is cold comfort.
We call on the leaders of NYSUT and the UFT to suspend their misleading media campaigns and call for NYSUT to work for an immediate amendment to the education law 3012d that requires teacher evaluations be based on high stakes tests that will continue to count for 50% of their evaluation. Additionally, we call upon NYSUT leaders to launch a new, fact-based media campaign informing their members and the public that very little has changed for the children we serve. The continued requirement of students to participate in flawed and inappropriate testing this spring, as well additional, local assessments solely for the purposes of teacher evaluations must stop. Furthermore, we demand that NYSUT urge all teachers to join the effort to save our profession and protect our students by refusing NYS tests in grades 3-8 for their own children.
Parents across New York State have labored for the past three years to protect their children and support educators. It is time that NYSUT and UFT leaders do the same. Now is not the time to lose the support of the public and our allies.
Rothstein, Richard. “The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools and Segregated Neighborhoods- A Constitutional Insult.” The Economic Policy Institute. www.epi.org. November 12, 2014. Web. January 23, 2016.