By Richard C. Iannuzzi
Teachers statewide are deeply concerned about their students – and they are speaking up.
As a key component of its “Tell It Like It Is” campaign, New York State United Teachers members are writing letters that spell out for state policy makers the negative impact of the overreliance on testing. Teachers in Western New York, and statewide, are blanketing the offices of State Education Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents. Their letters provide the kind of excruciating detail that comes from those in the trenches.
Key themes are emerging: State requirements for extensive pre-tests and post-tests in every grade are narrowing the curriculum and eroding the broad education students need to be successful in college and careers and as engaged citizens. Teachers also are forced to use valuable classroom time to “teach to the test” at the expense of real instruction.
“Even students on, or near, grade level focus less on learning and more on passing the test,” one Western New York teacher wrote. “The assessment of skills through constant testing is antiquated and uninspired. Tests should be but one small component of the overall assessment process.”
At a recent forum, educators reiterated what they are sharing in their letters: “One-size-fits-all” testing doesn’t make sense. A teacher from Eden talked about the narrowing of the curriculum and the erosion of music and arts opportunities for students. Another educator spoke of the emotional toll on her students with disabilities who must sit for state tests that typically bear no relevancy to their individual progress.
Teachers also have pointed out that the state’s planned administration this spring of high-stakes standardized tests on the new common core curriculum that is far from fully rolled out flies in the face of common sense and fairness.
Taken as a whole, state testing requirements are having a devastating impact on students, whose eagerness to learn too often gives way to stress about testing and to discouragement and disengagement from school.
NYSUT and its members have long maintained that state assessments have their place in education, but over-reliance on standardized tests shortchanges the quality education to which students are entitled. The irony is this culture of relentless testing has undermined the very system of education it claims needs to be improved.
Teachers are calling on the state to “do it right:” allow time to thoughtfully implement and teach common core curriculum, reduce the number and length of standardized tests and evaluate the amount of instructional time and financial resources lost to testing at the expense of student learning.
Our students deserve that much. The stakes are simply too high to do otherwise.
Richard C. Iannuzzi is president of New York State United Teachers.