Local school systems call for an end to high stakes testing

February 20, 2018 02:55 AM

Two Rochester area school boards called on the state to abandon its 3-8 state grade assessment test programs calling them an unproductive, expensive, unfunded mandate that fails to give an accurate reading of students’ progress.  

The tests, given to students in grades 3 through 8, have become a target of critics who question the value of high-stakes standardized testing.


“How many years are we just going to keep going through the tests and pretending that this is a valid measure until we stop wasting that money?” exclaimed Mary Caitlin Wight of the Greece Central School board, who helped draft a letter, unanimously approved and signed by the board, urging the state to accept other approaches for evaluating school success.   

The missive, and a similar one signed and sent by the board of the Fairport school district, was sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo, members of the state Assembly and the Senate as well as the state Education Department.  The letters called the tests “a detriment to the students and the community” and declared “one size fits no one.”

Allison Zimmer of Hilton announced her 9 year old daughter Cayce would be opting out of the tests and declared herself a skeptic of a testing system she called the work of bureaucrats instead of educators. 

“I think we should be concerned about anything that’s not being built by education professionals and then being asked to judge education professionals,” she said.

“We are asking our legislators to pause on these assessments,” explained Wight.  “We really want to be able to put that time and that money and invest it in our learners and our teachers in a much more appropriate way.”

The school board letters offer lists of measurements by which the districts claimed school performances could be more accurately measured such as graduation rates, teacher retention, absentee rates, advanced credits, extracurricular participation or teacher participation in professional development.

Wight acknowledged a change significant enough to do away with the 3-8 assessments would be a tall order requiring new state legislation but urged legislators to act.

“If not now, when?” she asked.  “Our students deserve better. Our teachers deserve better. Out state deserves better.”

The appeal found a sympathetic reception with Assemblyman Peter Lawrence of the Assembly Education Committee.

“What we’re doing is, again, taking cookie cutter approach to the whole system of education,” he said.

Lawrence worried that the current assessment system could not deliver accurate results because it had lost the confidence of educators, administrators and families.  

“What needs to be done,” he said, “is there has to be a task force formed with state education, with administrators, and with the faculties and with parents and then put something into place that way, rather than having the state come down and say ‘OK, this is what we’re going to be doing.’ This is how you’re going to do it.’” 

“I’ll pass. Thanks. I’ll pass,” laughed Cayce Zimmer.

While Cayce’s mother Allison said she believed Cayce would do well if she took the tests, she saw opting out as taking a position for the benefit of other students, and schools.

“I’m more concerned about participating in something that I feel isn’t necessarily good for New York State education,” Allison Zimmer said.


Charles Molineaux

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