State-mandated testing of third- through eighth-grade students is being questioned by school boards, teachers, school administrators and parents from around the state, including members of the Eden Central School District.
Mark Vona, vocal music teacher at Eden Elementary School, asked the School Board to pass a resolution asking the state to “stop measuring the students’ performances and the effectiveness of the teachers/principals by the standardized testing that is issued each year.”
Vona, who has taught in the district for 23 years, said the “high-stakes nature of these tests” in English and math distorts the students’ performance and the school’s effectiveness.
He said the overall curriculum is now heavily weighted toward those two subjects and teachers are unable to spend more time exploring avenues of study that deviate from the standardized tests. The natural sciences, social studies and the arts, which are not tested, are not given the same amount of attention and students who might excel in those subjects are not given the time to expand their knowledge in those fields, he said.
“Adding insult to injury, the tests themselves are not used diagnostically to improve the education of our students,” Vona said. “In fact, neither teacher nor parent ever sees the actual test results and no one knows what the students got right or wrong. How is this helping our education?”
As an added concern, he said the tests, which are linked to the Common Core standards, were developed by an organization called Achieve, Inc. and are published by Pearson, which has donated heavily to both political parties.
“We need to be concerned about the influence of corporate vendors on public education policy,” Vona said.
Vona said a group called The Partnership for Smarter Schools, made up of school administrators, politicians, parents and teachers, is working to get accurate information out to the public about these tests and their effects. “I would recommend this group to anyone who wants to hear the other side of the story,” Vona said. “The public has a negative view of public education and has been led to believe it is failing, with the results from these tests being used to perpetuate this myth.”
Vona mentioned that other communities have joined in the push to have the whole issue of the state testing be revisited, including Kenmore-Tonawanda, Springville, Grand Island, North Tonawanda, Alden, Niagara Wheatfield and Starpoint.
“Please consider passing this type of resolution,” he said. “It will send a strong message to the Legislature that we care about our children and our public education system and that they need to get the testing right.”
Board Member Patty Krouse spoke in favor of creating the resolution and asked the board to consider passing it and sending it to the state Board of Regents and the commissioner of education.
“Although Common Core is countrywide, only New York and Kentucky are doing these tests, and there has been an uproar in both of these states,” Krouse said. “New York State was rushed into this and the teachers and students are not prepared for it. We need to get this changed.”
Board President Michael Byrnes asked Krouse to draw up the resolution for consideration at the board’s next meeting on Nov. 20.