Friday, April 26, 2013

High Stakes Test Protest Press Release Points to Poverty Factor in Education

(From Change the Stakes)


Parents, teachers and students gathered today to demand an end to the policy of high-stakes testing (HST), which they claim interferes with the teaching of subjects in depth and deprives the city’s children of a high-quality education, inflicting damage on them and their communities.
Parents and teachers, sharing the fears caused by threats of school closure and grade retention, said they are fed up and determined to put an end to HST. In fact, the closure and retention policies are what make the tests “high stakes.” Parent Jeff Nichols objects, “I find myself thinking, ‘Duh!’ Get the bureaucrats out of the picture! NO to the state tests because of the whole panoply of abuses they facilitate, but also NO to the whole concept that children are to be judged by paper-pushers who have never met them!” Loretta Prisco, a retired teacher states, “I am totally opposed to holding kids back. It doesn’t work. Think about the kid who is reading on level but has not mastered the math of his grade.”
Martha Foote, a parent of a 5th grader at PS 321 in Brooklyn, says: “High-stakes testing is corrupting and ruining our children’s education. It’s turning our schools into test-prep factories and turning our children away from learning. . . . Parents—from Buffalo to Rockville Centre—are saying enough of this insanity. It’s time to bring real learning back into the classroom.”
Researchers acknowledge an education crisis but say that it is not caused by the public schools. The real cause is our country’s increasing poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor—and the segregation that results. Children who are not living in poverty score as high or higher than students in Finland and other countries with strong school systems. However, a UNICEF study of the well-being of children in wealthy countries issued this month, the Innocenti Report Card, states that the US ranks near the bottom and in some categories second to last, just above Romania; in all large US cities public schools are so segregated that there is no evidence of the former impact of Brown v. Board of Education. [Ed.: UNICEF, Innocenti Report Card: "Report Card 11 released by UNICEF charts the well-being of children in 29 rich countries"]
Teachers have been gagged by the DOE, warned that they must not speak out. Some have been threatened with loss of jobs and even of their licenses if they share their concerns about the pressure to do test prep rather than teach and the required use of the “Core Content State Standards,” which they find to be shoddy and age inappropriate.
Corruption of the purpose of education is paired with undue corporate influence on policy. One teacher said, “Boss Tweed’s legacy of corruption has rubbed off on the present occupant of the Tweed Courthouse, the NYC DOE, whose policies are most responsive to rich and powerful corporations that are rewarded with no-bid contracts for billions of dollars.”
Meanwhile, most public officials’ children are in private schools, getting the meaningful education that public school students are deprived of. An elementary teacher says, “The children deserve schools just as good as the private schools political leaders choose for their children. . . . It’s hypocritical for politicians like NY State Education Commissioner John King and President Obama to send their children to private schools where there are no high-stakes tests, and then impose them on our kids.”
A sixth grader recently wrote about her view of the limitations of HST: “The test doesn’t let you learn much about the students or their teachers. A project could show more because . . . the students can express what they can do and have the time to show what they know. . . . If the DOE wants to know anything on how smart we are, this test is not the correct answer.”
The DOE claims it has no choice but to use HST. When DOE Deputy Chancellor Polakow-Suransky stated last December that “the federal government has a rule that you have to do this testing,” parent Patricia Padilla responded: “I don’t think that we have to wait for federal law to change for there to be a change in high-stakes testing—because if that were the case I would still be picking cotton or drinking from the colored water fountain."