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NYC Parents Boycott High Stakes Exams

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Information from Dr. Monty Neill, Executive Director, FairTest. Thursday, June 6, 2012.
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Note: There is also a demonstration in NYC in front of Pearson (publishes tests) today at 11:00 in the morning. It is on 6th Ave between 53 and 54 St. Monty Neill

Press Contacts:
Martha Foote ; Anne Stone
Tel. 347-967-8159 Tel. 917-757-3618
martha_foote@hotmail.com ; anne.judith.stone@gmail.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JUNE 7, 2012

Parents in 59 Schools Boycott Field Tests for High-Stakes Exams:

Fed Up With Over-Testing, Parents Protest at Pearson Headquarters

"Enough is enough - we want more teaching, less testing!"

New York City -Parents across New York City and New York State, fed up with high-stakes and excessive standardized testing in public education, are boycotting the "stand-alone" field tests scheduled for middle and elementary schools this week. And many are joining a protest at the headquarters of Pearson, the state's for-profit test development contractor, to demonstrate their anger as well.

From June 5th to June 12th, children across the state are being forced to give up learning time solely to serve the research purposes of billion-dollar test publisher Pearson, which has a $32 million contract with the New York State Education Department. But parents in 59 schools - an unprecedented number - are fighting back by refusing to allow their children to take these field tests. In support, the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) passed a resolution on May 31 endorsing the boycott and urging all parents to opt their children out of the field tests. The Community Education Councils (CECs) of District 3 in Manhattan (Upper West Side) and District 20 (Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Borough Park, Kensington) in Brooklyn passed similar resolutions.

"All this testing is out of control," says Dani Gonzalez, a Bronx parent who is protesting at today's demonstration. "Real learning happens when children can explore and experiment and do projects, when they can read books and discuss them. All this testing is crowding real learning out of the classroom. My children can't learn when all they do is prepare for tests and take tests."

The Pearson field tests follow April's state-mandated English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams, tests that were twice as long as those given in previous years--largely because they contained embedded field-test items. Over a two-week period, students in grades 3-8 had to sit for tests 90 minutes a day for six days. Students with special needs had to sit even longer - up to 180 minutes each day.

"It was horrible," says Tony Kelso, a boycotting parent from Manhattan. "My 8-year-old son's tests were about as long as my finals were in college! Then he couldn't even take recess on those days because the period conflicted with the time the students in the other school in his building were taking their tests. Friends told me about how their children were stressed out and crying. This is simply too much pressure to put on children."

Parents are especially outraged by all the high stakes attached to these tests. In New York City, grade promotion, school report card grades, and school closings hinge on state test score results. With the new state teacher evaluation law, teachers' jobs will be dependent on their students' scores as well. Parents see a narrowing of the curriculum and an increased focus on the tests as a result.

"More and more, state testing determines what children learn in school, how teachers teach, and even whether or not teachers will remain in the classroom," says Sonia Murrow, a 5th grade parent who is boycotting in Brooklyn. "We want a rich curriculum for our children, not teaching to the test."

Fueling parent anger is the fact that Pearson, a for-profit company that made $800 million dollars in its North American Education division alone last year, is using valuable classroom time for product development purposes. "Children shouldn't be used as guinea pigs to enrich private companies," says Jeff Nichols, a Manhattan parent from a boycotting school. "Our schools are being cut to the bone, but city and state education officials always manage to find money for all these tests and test prep materials."

Disclosures about the poor quality of this year's state tests - 29 questions have been invalidated so far, including two associated with the infamous "Pineapple and the Hare" passage - have raised questions among parents about the validity of the entire testing enterprise. Parents are further enraged that Pearson and the state refuse to make the tests public, as they were in the past. Lisa Edstrom, parent of a 3rd grader in Brooklyn, contends, "The proponents of high-stakes testing always talk about accountability - but who's holding Pearson and the State accountable?"

Since opting-out of the stand-alone field tests will have no negative consequences for parents or schools (as opposed to April's tests), parents see this boycott as an opportunity to communicate the widespread resentment public school parents feel towards the untrammeled growth of high-stakes standardized testing. This growth will only intensify with the new teacher evaluation law, which promises testing in more subjects and more grades, including kindergarten - 2nd grade.

Organizations supporting this demonstration include: Alliance for Quality Education, Change the Stakes, Class Size Matters, Coalition for Educational Justice, Edu4, Parent Voices New York, Public Education Matters, Restore Education Funding - Nyack/Valley Cottage, Time Out >From Testing

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Schools Where Parents Are Participating in the Field Test Boycott
Arts & Letters
The Center School
Central Park East I
Central Park East II
The Earth School
East Side Community School
East Village Community School
Ella Baker School
Institute for Collaborative Education
MS 51
MS 54
MS 74
MS 245/The Computer School
MS 250/Westside Collaborative Middle School
MS 311/Amistad Dual Language
MS 447/Math and Science
MS 448/Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies
PS 8
PS 9
PS 10
PS 29
PS 32
PS 75
PS 84
PS 87
PS 102
PS 107
PS 132
PS 139
PS 146/The Brooklyn New School
PS 162
PS 165
PS 192
PS 230
PS 242
PS 261
PS 295
PS 314/Muscota New School
PS 321
PS 361/Children's Workshop School
PS 363/The Neighborhood School
PS 372/Brooklyn Children's School
NEST+M
School of the Future
Tompkins Square Middle School

Schools Outside of NYC
Cottage Lane Elementary School
Felix Fests Middle School
Liberty Elementary School
Link Elementary School
New City Elementary School
Nyack Middle School
R.P. Connor Elementary School
Scarsdale MS
Sloatsburg Elementary School
Sourth Orangetown Middle School
Strawtown Elementary School
Upper Nyack Elementary School
Valley Cottage Elementary School
Woodglen Elementary School
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