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Change the Stakes
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2014
Number of NYC Parents Refusing State Tests Expected to Triple in 2014
New York City –What began two years ago as a small pocket of resistance has burgeoned into a full-blown protest movement: public school parents are demanding an end to the excessive use of standardized tests and top-down, corporate-backed reforms. Change the Stakes estimates that three times as many NYC school children as last year – perhaps exceeding 1,000 – will refuse to take the annual English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams that begin next week.
At the Brooklyn New School, well over 200 students – nearly 80% of students in testing grades – will not take this year’s exams; last year only 4 BNS students opted out of the tests. The estimated test refusal rate at the Earth School in Manhattan is 50%, compared with 30% last year. At P.S. 446 in Brownsville, as many as 25 3rd grade parents have submitted refusal letters. At the Academy of Arts and Letters in Fort Greene, the number is 40, representing 75% of the 3rd grade. Principals say they expect the numbers to continue to rise until the exams begin April 1st.
Although children not taking the tests span the full range from 3rd to 8th grade, parents of younger children often refuse the tests because of changes in their child’s attitude toward school as a result of the testing.
Roseanne Cuffy-Scott, parent of a 3rd grader in the East Village said, “My son used to love going to school until his evenings were filled with homework assignments that confused him with complicated and poorly written math and reading questions. His assignments are stressful for both him and myself. I have to spend hours explaining concepts that he’s not ready for developmentally.” As for the tests, she said her son is nervous and “is fearful he will have to attend summer school or repeat third grade.”
Many parents refusing to have their children tested encounter supportive principals and teachers, while others are not so fortunate. Samantha De Los Santos, parent of a 3rd grader with special needs in Queens’ District 25, wants to opt her son out but says administrators and staff are pressuring her to allow her son to be tested. “They’re telling me he’ll be scored as failing if he doesn’t take the test and that he might not be promoted. They’re really scaring me.”
The lack of direction from the NYC Department of Education has led to uncertainty among administrators about how to respond to families refusing the tests; parents are still seeking guidance from the DOE. Although the new Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, has made clear her intent to be more responsive to parents, her department’s efforts have been hampered by the transition falling in the middle of the school year and pressure to tackle a multitude of issues at once.
The information vacuum has fostered misinformation, with students being threatened with various punishments – being forced to attend summer school or denied promotion as well as being excluded from graduation ceremonies and other school celebrations – for opting out of the tests.
But many parents refuse to be dissuaded from protecting their children from a public education system gone wrong. Dawn Babbush, a 3rd grade parent in Brooklyn’s District 13, asks “What has happened to our schools? How did it get this bad? The voices of trusted educators and caring parents have been completely disregarded. Our children are being subjected to a curriculum that lacks joy and life – it’s scripted and standardized and full of test prep. Test scores are used to sort students and rank teachers, creating a climate of competition and fear. It’s no wonder teachers feel pressure to teach to the test.”
Ms. Babbush added, “This is not the education we want for our children and we will not stand for it any longer. Parents have a voice, and our elected officials need to recognize us. We’ll be paying attention come November.”
As teacher and union activists working inside the framework of a deeply undemocratic union and against the formidable resources available to the implacable “corporate school reform” movement it is inevitable that we momentarily lose heart, even hear a cynical “voice” from inside ourselves about protecting public schools and the welfare of students we care about so much. Then something happens, something wonderful. We find again that we have remarkable allies and that over time, perhaps more time than any of us would like to think, we will prevail in the work we do to teach our students well, preserve professional autonomy within our classrooms and join forces with parents and students to give voice to concerns that resonate in the communities that support our schools.
One of those moments occurred at Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School on W. 102nd St. on February 1 at a forum, “More Than a Score: Talking Back to Testing,” sponsored jointly by MORE, Teachers Unite, Change the Stakes and the NYC Student Union. More than 150 parents, teachers, administrators and students came together to demonstrate what we all “know” but sometimes doubt. We found that there really is in New York City a coalition of informed, energetic and motivated activists who can work together to take advantage of the cracks now opening up in the political and social environment to push through a “people’s school reform” movement that will restore sanity, balance and intelligence to the day-to-day operation of the schools where we work and where our students learn.
Whether or not your children took the state tests, please join a rally in front of Tweed on FRIDAY 4/26 at 4pm to protest the ways that high-stakes testing is robbing our children of a decent education! BRING THE KIDS!
CLEANING UP the MESS of HIGH STAKES TESTING and
Putting Back the ‘PUBLIC’ in Public Education
Our children are NOT a test score!
WHEN: Friday, April 26 at 4 pm*
WHERE: TWEED NYC Department of Education
52 Chambers Street (4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge. N, R to City Hall. J to Chambers Street)
WHO: Families, Teachers, Children and Supporters of Educational Justice
WHY: Because private schools already said “NO!” to high stakes testing!
Because WE demand 180 days of learning!
Because schools should foster a love for life long learning.
Because positive relationships between schools and families are at the core of learning.
BRING SIGNS with YOUR VISION and DEMANDS for the SCHOOLS
we want OUR CHILDREN to be in.
Bring Mops, Brooms, Scrub brushes,
Buckets and cleaning supplies to Mop UP the MESS!
Bring #2 Pencils for us to transform them into a new vision of Public Education
*Rain Date: Tuesday, April 30 @ 4 pm
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