By Patricia Dobrasz Munnikhuysen
The New York State Education Department’s boasts of improvements in the Common Core standardized test scores for 3rd-8th grade students have zero value to education. However, they are useful for politicians.
Governor Cuomo, for example, wants a justification to privatize more public schools, and billions of dollars are at stake to be made by Cuomo backers. Caught in the middle, our children are being used as pawns. Many parents, myself included, can see through this scheme. Parental involvement has somewhat loosened Mr. Cuomo’s grip on the State Education Department (SED) and purposeless and expensive testing, but more needs to be done. Politicians and test designers are profiting generously at taxpayers’ and our children’s expense thanks to the spring standardized NYS Common Core Tests. That is the ONLY purpose that the tests serve.
Initially, state testing started as part of former President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program, which by law mandates state testing. The program wasn’t very effective, but it didn’t hurt districts either. Unlike the current tests, No Child Left Behind had a benefit, in that teachers graded their student’s tests and could determine what needed to be tweaked. Obama rebranded the name “Race to the Top,” and dangled money out to states as bait to implement the Common Core. Governor Cuomo took it. The money wasn’t enough to pay for its implementation in public schools and taxpayers had to pick up the difference, which was substantial.
Governor Cuomo put a twist on the program by introducing it in our schools before training teachers as other states did. He then used the test scores to hurt schools and teachers, which was not done with the tests associated with No Child Left Behind. Parents immediately took notice of the negative changes and the altered culture of the schools, as well as their children’s attitudes about school, and investigated, tracing the most detrimental changes to Governor Cuomo. At the time, it was not known that Mr. Cuomo was aiding others’ hidden agendas, enabling them to use public education as a vehicle for those agendas, having as many public schools as possible declared “failing” based on the tests in order to justify eventual privatization. Some speculated that Mr. Cuomo sought the Democratic nomination for president and wanted education to the centerpiece of his campaign among his accomplishments as governor.
Teacher-designed tests are a much more accurate tool for student assessment in grades 3rd-8th. If the SED wants to reflect failing schools, they adjust the formula to reflect that, and vice versa if they want to show improvement.
Furthermore, the test scores have zero prescriptive value as far as informing a school district on which direction to take instruction. The scores are released the next summer, with very little specific information about what students did well or poorly on. Once again, it’s important to remember that these tests have little to do with education and everything to do with politics.
I am a parent that joined about 250,000 other bipartisan parents of 3rd-8th grade students across the state in refusing these tests to try to regain local control. Our refusal numbers led to many changes, such as special education students who still take the tests getting their normal testing accommodations, fewer days of testing for all students, the drop of sensitive inBloom data mining of students and their families, and a law that prevents the faulty test scores from ever becoming a part of their transcripts prior to high school.
It should be noted that the high school tests cannot be refused. I’m a parent of two high school students now, but I continue to advocate against the Common Core because the Common Core Regents test scores affect my children deeply. My children are doing well and are in a wonderful school district (Wilson), but I want better for them than what the school district is forced to teach. In addition, my children, like many, may attend out of state colleges, and their transcripts will have to compete against students from non-Common Core states.
If the high stakes state tests were not determining the fate of schools, teachers and high school Regents results, teachers could use common sense and improve the poorly written standards. Instead they are forced to teach narrow and poor material because it will be reflected on the test results. Therefore, we have a heavy test prep culture in our schools and a resultant teacher shortage. The traditional Regents were much better assessments of high school students, and teacher-designed tests for elementary and middle school students.
The SED may be boasting about improvements on the state 3rd-8th grade tests, but they are not valid claims. Can you imagine a farmer stapling fruit onto a tree and then claiming that he grew a great crop? The SED is “fruit stapling” the state test scores to meet its own agenda which, of course, is Gov. Cuomo’s. The insanity of the SED testing our kids with bogus tests, wasting both taxpayer dollars and instructional time better spent in other ways needs to end. Test refusal rates have hovered around 20% for the past three years despite 40,000 students aging out each year.
Parents have become attuned to education matters like never before, to the extent that Governor Cuomo knows that he has botched up education in NY and lost the support of many. He is trying to obtain the Democratic nomination for the next presidential election. While many will benefit from “free college” in NY, many are of the opinion it was done by him to gather support in an area, education, that he has been abusive to. He hasn’t put the interests of the children of New York State first, but has used them to further his agenda at their and taxpayers’ expense.
Parents of children in grades 3rd-8th grade, please continue to refuse the state spring tests to help curb this insanity and return local control… and Common Sense, not common core to public education.