At Public Meeting, New York Parents Rebel Against Excessive Testing

Parents are arguing — loudly — that increased focus on testing in New York is serving only as a cause for stress and is not doing anything to actually improve academic outcomes. During a public meeting to discuss the state’s education reform plans, parent after parent spoke against the growing reliance on testing in the state with some saying that rather than helping kids, it is actually making them sick.

One mother said that she had to take her son to a doctor last year prior to the exam because he had made himself ill due to stress. She added that the statistics collected by the exams are meaningless if the testing itself is robbing children of their desire to learn.

State Sen. John Flanagan, R-Long Island, chairman of the committee, said it was the first opportunity for the public to comment on the reforms. A few hundred people filled a small auditorium at Suffolk County Community College, cheering loudly as parents, teachers, senators and others questioned and ridiculed the state Education Department’s agenda.

Many speakers questioned the results of the new state tests in English and math given in April. The state found that majorities of students across New York in grades 3 to 8 were not proficient in their subject matter.

Gary Stern of The Journal News reports that the discontent was not limited to parents. Lawmakers like state Senator Jack Martins called on associate state education commissioner Ken Wagner to “rethink [his] methodology,” saying that it didn’t make sense that more than half of New York’s students were classified as not ready for college.

In addition, speakers took issue with the numerous other standardized tests students had to take on a yearly basis besides the chief assessment state exams. Scores from the additional tests are used to assess student progress for the purposes of evaluating the quality of their teachers.

Marianne Adrian, a parent of three from Levittown, said that young students are affected when they take pre-tests that are really designed to show how little they know in September. Many students are taking such tests over the next few weeks.

“Once you break their confidence, it is really hard to build it up,” Adrian said.

The soft-spoken Wagner, a well-liked former school psychologist, was on the defensive from the start. Standing in for Education Commissioner John King, he was peppered with questions about the state’s rush to roll out new standards and tests.

“There always has to be a year one,” he said. Wagner conceded the state has to more effectively explain its goals to teachers and parents.