State teachers union calls 2018 standardized testing "abusive"

Posted at 6:43 PM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 18:43:14-04

Computer glitches. Lost answers. Tests extending into three class days. Stressed and concerned students. These frustrations from public school teachers across New York State are outlined in a new, eye-opening report from New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).

The report, called The Tyranny of Testing, compiles first-hand accounts from teachers across New York State who administered the 2018 round of math and English Language Arts assessments.

Teachers reported elementary school students who spent six hours a day on the two-day tests, some unable to finish their work by the time buses arrived.

"I did have to watch their faces while they were taking the test and, for me, that's the hardest part," explained Michelle Licht, a fourth grade teacher at Dodge Elementary. She's president of the Williamsville Teachers Association. "This year I had one who cried. I had one who got sick and it's absolutely outrageous."

Licht is concerned the tests are too much for young students, particularly because they can take some students several hours to complete.

Claire Cameron, an associate professor of early childhood education at the University at Buffalo, said students from third grade to eighth grade can only reasonably be expected to spend an hour on a test. Anything longer and fatigue and stress come into play and the results might not accurately represent what a student might know.

"If you think about how much time children much younger are testing, I would say it's not developmentally appropriate," Cameron said.

“It’s crucial for our education leaders to hear these on-the-ground reports so they realize how great the need is to fix New York’s broken testing system,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “These tests gauge little more than how long a student can sit in their seats and endure them, which is why so many called the tests abusive.”

NYSUT also raised concerns with computer-based testing. The union questioned whether students are being tested on their knowledge or their ability to use a computer.

The way test scores are used to gauge student performance and evaluate teachers is also a big concern many teachers and union leaders have raised in the past.

A bill addressing that topic, which would de-link standardized test scores and teacher performance, has passed the NYS Assembly 131-1. Of 63 senators, 54 have signed on as co-sponsors, but the bill has not been brought to the floor for a vote.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan cited concerns the bill might lead to more testing from NYS Education Department and other groups as a reason for holding it off the floor.

"With this in mind, we are performing an extensive review of this legislation to determine the best path forward," Flanagan said in a statement.

7 Eyewitness News has reached out to NYSED to discuss this year's standardized testing, but has not heard back.

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