Author Speaks Locally About Validity of State Tests

Violette Terjanian, Staff Writer

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It’s April 14th, 2015.  48 states are about to begin the Common Core English Language Arts state tests.   These will last three days, ending on April 16th.  Once these tests are finished, the Math State Tests will begin on April 22nd, and last until April 24th.  The tests are split into three sections, which the students will complete individually each day.  The students are given 90 minutes to finish each section.

On April 15th, one day after the tests began, about 30 people gathered at a Curious on Hudson event in Dobbs Ferry, where author Anya Kamenetz was about to speak about her book, The Test.  She wrote about the history of the test, and why it is wrong to educate generations of children with this set of standards.  Kamenetz discussed the issues with the test, and why our legislators value these tests that seem to affect children, parents, and schools so deeply.

Common Core Standardized Testing is a huge controversial issue throughout many states.  Common Core is a set of standards that over 40 states have adopted. The Common Core standards were created by a group of governors, chief state school officers and education experts from 48 states. NprED(a website that covers education issues) says, “The Common Core State Standards Initiative is the largest-ever attempt in the United States to set unified expectations for what students in kindergarten through 12th grade should know and be able to do in each grade in preparation for college and the workforce.”  Common Core has developed intensive tests for these standards, commonly known as “state tests.” At the moment, the standards test two subjects – math and ELA (English Language Arts).  The tests are designed to get all students in America on “the same page”.

Kamenetz wonders aloud, “What do the tests actually test?  You can work with a child’s mindset to find their passions.  So why have tests that define children with only two subjects?  The tests are not correlated with a student’s actual potential. They test limited skills, not creative skills.”

Evidence proves that parents aren’t thrilled with these tests, either.  About 3,000 people opted out of these tests this year in New York State alone.  There were 80 children in the Dobbs Ferry Middle School who opted out.  A combined total of 348 Rivertowns students refused to take the ELA test; 415 boycotted the math test.   How do these opt out rates affect the school district?

Lisa Brady, the Dobbs Ferry Schools Superintendent, who also attended the discussion on the test, speaks about this. “There are a number of concerns for the District when students opt out of the tests. For example, the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law requires that a school district has at least 95% of students taking standardized tests. When this does not occur, both individual schools as well as entire school districts can then be labeled as ‘in need of improvement’ which requires the school district to do a lot of onerous reporting and possibly have the curriculum dictated by the State.”

However, this doesn’t mean Brady is a fan of the tests.  Quite the opposite, actually. According to Brady, “New York State has a fundamentally flawed and disastrous system in place that is beyond repair. I think that the tests are despicable and an insult of quality teaching and learning. I am fully supportive of the Common Core, but I am appalled at the implementation and assessment.”

There were many people there at Anya Kamenetz’s talk, ranging from parents, to writers, to the Dobbs Ferry School District Superintendent.  The majority of the curious community agreed on one thing: these tests are bad, and should no longer continue.

Fortunately for the people who dislike these tests, there are many people, like Kamenetz, who are delving into what they are and what they are really measuring. Going forward, will voices like Kamenetz’s be loud enough to make a difference?


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