Principals Against State of Testing

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Principals Against State of Testing

WASHINGTON - Throughout the U.S., children are taking tests this week so that local jurisdictions can get federal “Race to the Top” funds.

CAROL BURRIS, cburris at rvcschools.org
Burris has served as principal of South Side High School in the Rockville Centre School District in New York since 2000. She is author of “Detracking for Equity and Excellence.” She was just featured in a report “Teachers, parents push back against high stakes testing,” part of a series on education by The Real News.

Late last year she co-wrote a letter about how testing is being conducted in New York State. As of last week, 1432 New York State principals have become signatories to the letter, which states: “In May 2010, the New York State Legislature — in an effort to secure federal Race to the Top funds — approved an amendment to Educational Law 3012-c regarding the Annual Professional Performance Review of teachers and principals. The new law states that beginning September 2011, all teachers and principals will receive a number from 0-100 to rate their performance. Part of that number (ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent) will be derived from how well students perform on standardized tests. At first glance, using test scores might seem like a reasonable approach to accountability. As designed, however, these regulations carry unintended negative consequences for our schools and students that simply cannot be ignored. Below we explain both the flaws and the consequences.

“Educational research and researchers strongly caution against teacher evaluation approaches like New York Stateʼs APPR Legislation. A few days before the Regents approved the APPR regulations, ten prominent researchers of assessment, teaching and learning wrote an open letter that included some of the following concerns about using student test scores to evaluate educators. Value-added models of teacher effectiveness do not produce stable ratings of teachers. …

“The Regents examinations and Grades 3-8 Assessments are designed to evaluate student learning, not teacher effectiveness, nor student learning growth. Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person: you might be able to develop a formula that links height and weight, but there will be plenty of error in your calculations. …

“Students will be adversely affected by New York Stateʼs APPR. When a teacherʼs livelihood is directly impacted by his or her studentsʼ scores on an end-of-year examination, test scores take front and center. The nurturing relationship between teacher and student changes for the worse. …

“With a focus on the end of year testing, there inevitably will be a narrowing of the curriculum as teachers focus more on test preparation and skill and drill teaching. Enrichment activities in the arts, music, civics and other non-tested areas will diminish. …

“Teachers will subtly but surely be incentivized to avoid students with health issues, students with disabilities, English Language Learners or students suffering from emotional issues. Research has shown that no model yet developed can adequately account for all of these ongoing factors. …

“Collaboration among teachers will be replaced by competition. With a ‘value added’ system, a 5th grade teacher has little incentive to make sure that her incoming students score well on the 4th grade exams, for incoming students with high scores would make her job more challenging. When competition replaces collaboration, every student loses. …

“Tax dollars are being redirected from schools to testing companies, trainers and outside vendors…”

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A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.

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