Get it done right

in

To The Editor:
In the March 27th edition of the Catskill Mountain News, the New York State Union of Teachers (NYSUT) ran a full-page “open letter” about the state tests that students in grades 3-8 will be taking in April and May. For those who may have missed it, here is a recap:

The state tests will be based on the new “Common Core” standards adopted by the State Education Department. Teachers support the principle of Common Core standards, believing that, with proper implementation, they can enrich and expand student learning, critical thinking and creativity. Teachers also support the principle of accountability for students and educators. Again, properly implemented, standardized tests can be one of many measures that can strengthen teaching and learning.

No experienced teacher would test students on material before it’s been taught – and yet that’s the scenario the state has created in its rush to roll out new standardized tests. Two-thirds of teachers surveyed statewide say their students lack books and materials aligned with the new Common Core standards. As recently as last month, the state was still rolling out materials and instructions on Common Core, while expecting students to have mastered the new curriculum by April.

Many students have not had time to prepare for a whole new set of challenging standardized exams in math and English Language Arts. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, State Education Commissioner John King, and many others have acknowledged that students’ test scores will likely drop significantly, perhaps by as much as 30 percent. Yet the state plans to use this year’s scores to label students and measure teacher effectiveness.

NYSUT believes that it is wrong to impose “high stakes” on too many tests, given too frequently, and before teachers have had the opportunity to properly prepare their students. It is wrong for children to suffer test-related stress and anxiety, or to come home crying after taking a test. It is wrong to rate teacher effectiveness using test scores that are likely to reflect a lack of adequate materials and preparation.

Patience, time and resources will be needed to properly implement new and challenging Common Core standards. This year’s exams should be used to measure the state’s progress in introducing Common Core standards, and not for high-stakes decisions. Educators support high standards, but our commitment is to get it done right.

To learn more about this issue or to make your voice heard, go to www.nysut.org/testing.

Members of the Margaretville and Roxbury teachers’ associations