It’s Spring Testing Season Again – Here’s Why We Still Refuse

It has been a while. So…

NY state testing begins this week for all in grades 3-8. To show you how absurd these tests are at this point here’s some details about where we are right now and some highlights of what the opt out *cough/refusal*movement has been able to accomplish:

1. There are zero ramifications for anyone (parent or child) who refuses to take the exams. That alone should immediately make you wonder why we waste millions of dollars to administer them.
2. It is still very much unclear what the exam results are used for. The state has put a temporary hold on coupling the exam results to teacher performance. It can’t be used to grade or judge a student, school or district, and the teachers and admin I have spoken with indicated they don’t use the scores for any purpose. The 3rd graders take the exams and move to 4th grade regardless of results. They are with a new teacher, classmates and curriculum. No adjustments are made to teaching style, methods, content, etc. However, this may not be the case everywhere.
3. At the start of this movement, state testing was two separate 3-day windows (ELA 3 days, Math 3 days). As a result of this movement, not only was the window downsized to two days for each subject, but the number of questions was decreased. That would not have occurred without the movement. It is still too many, especially the longer window for computer based testing.
4. The tests will again be untimed. That must be brutal on the children struggle with time management (who doesn’t!) or those who stress and ponder over their answers. How do you tell them to stop? “The bus is coming so you must end the exam.”
5. What’s being tested here? The kids? The teachers? The curriculum? The standards? I’ve STILL not heard NYSED officials clearly state WHY we have these exams. A test this significant can only have one purpose. Having multiple purposes dilutes the outcome.
6. The standards used to guide these tests, and the creation of them, are completely unproven and were in fact an experiment tied to federal funding. No other nation tests this aggressively. No other nation rolls out new standards and tests on them in such a high stakes manner as we did several years back when this movement really gained steam. New standards that teachers hadn’t fully learned about nor prepared for.
7. I think the below statement from the NYSUT is about as accurate as it gets.

“Student performance on the state grade 3–8 tests is contrary to the vast academic successes at the high school level. 60% of grades 3‐8 students are identified as not proficient on the state 3‐8 ELA and Math exams. Statewide proficiency rates that hover around 40% are wholly inconsistent with the excellent performance levels on Regents exams and with rising graduation rates.

It would be reasonable to assume that if students were not proficient on their 3‐8 state exams that they would not be prepared to successfully pass Regents exams. However, this is not the case; for example, in 2016 24% of the 8th grade students that took the 8th Grade Math assessment were identified as proficient, but one year later when most of these students took the Algebra I Regents exam 74% passed. Similarly in 2013, only 31% of 7th graders were proficient on the state ELA exam and four years later in 11th grade, when most of those 7th graders took the ELA common Core Regents exam, the Regents passage rate was 84%. What is wrong with these assessments? They are clearly not measuring student performance and proficiency levels in an accurate manner.”

(As quoted from https://www.nysutorg/news/2018/april/open-letter-on-proficiency-rates)

8. “Over the past three years, Commissioner Elia has listened to the concerns of parents and teachers and made significant changes to the exams as a result,” said Emily DeSantis, spokeswoman for the state Education Department. “It’s up to parents to decide if their children should take the tests, and we want them to have all the facts so they can make an informed decision.” That’s an acknowledgement that we’ve not yet heard. Yes, it is up to parents. Not the school, state or the feds. Finally granting parents, dare I say it, control over their child’s education.

(As quoted from

9. The overall cost of these assessments is still unknown, at both the state level and within every individual district. All I see is a guess at costs. My home district is, in my opinion, in major financial trouble. Rising costs of nearly everything, including these tests, and lower enrollment year after year spell a disaster in the making. Tally up the cost for subs alone and you’ll be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide.

That said, the main thought I keep coming back to is this: To date, my eighth grade honors student has yet to take ANY state assessments. There have been zero repercussions. He goes from grade to grade, year to year, subject to subject (now prepping for high school) and there is zero impact of him missing the exams. I ask myself over and over … so what is the point? If he can go this far and do this well, why are we giving these assessments AT ALL? Why can’t all the kids bypass the exams and just be kids, not a data point.

Enough of the global competition for high scores and comparison. We aren’t Finland, nor Singapore, nor Japan.

Bring back the California Achievement Tests (CATs) in grades 4 and 8!!! (Yes, I am that old and I’m partially kidding. No, not really.)

Side note: Look at the picture of the kids sitting at the computer taking the assessments in this Newsday post (here). Adult size keyboards, no room to use the mouse, wrong eye to monitor height, wrong brightness level and room lighting, etc. An awful setup for such a high stakes exam, don’t you think?

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