Category Archives: Opt Out

The State Tests: Words from the Public Advocate, the DOE Chancellor, & Councilmember Brad Lander

As the NY State tests begin tomorrow, we encourage parents – especially those with children in testing grades – to take the time to view:

  1. A message sent to parents from New York City’s Public Advocate Letitia James, explaining parents’ rights to refuse the state tests,
  2. A Channel 7 interview with Chancellor Carmen Fariña discussing the Common Core Learning Standards and the value of the state tests, and
  3. A letter from Councilmember Brad Lander, one of the four City Councilmembers who represent CSD 13

[From City Advocate Letitia James]

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: New York City Public Advocate
Date: Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 1:45 PM
Subject: Your Right to Opt Out

Friends,

Next week, children across our state will be asked to take the New York State English Language Arts exam and the following week they will be asked to take the New York State Math exam.

There has been a lot of confusion about whether these tests are required. I want to remind you that, as parents, you have the right to opt your child out of this exam with no consequences to you, your child, or your child’s school.

If you do choose to make this decision, you must write a letter to your child’s principal. More information on how to opt out is available here: https://changethestakes.wordpress.com/testing-info/how-to-opt-out-of-state-standardized-tests/.

The decision whether to opt out or not is a personal one for each family. As your Public Advocate, I want to ensure that parents know their rights. And that we continue working together to build a school system that offers a holistic education, including arts and physical education, and equips our children for success.

If you have questions or concerns, I urge you to contact my office at 212-669-7250 or gethelp@pubadvocate.nyc.gov.
Sincerely,

Letitia James
New York City Public Advocate

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[Chancellor Carmen Fariña]

Link to Channel 7 interview with Chancellor Carmen Fariña:

http://abc7ny.com/education/up-close-nyc-schools-chancellor-carmen-farina/1274368/

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[From Council Member Brad Lander]

NYS tests start tomorrow – what you need to know

Tomorrow, students in our public schools will begin taking the New York State tests, with English Language Arts (ELA) this week, and Math next week.

As the father of two public school students, I know that our kids deal differently with testing, and that it can be a very stressful experience for some of them.

Thanks to strong advocacy, we are making progress in the effort to reduce the over-reliance on high-stakes testing, and the negative consequences it has – not only stressed-out kids, but “teaching to the test,” incidences of cheating, erratic teacher evaluations, and a loss of time and focus on arts and music and creativity and teamwork.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a real shift in attitudes. We elected a Mayor committed to more holistic education. He and Chancellor Fariña replaced the single, mostly test-based letter-grade that schools used to receive, with the “Framework for Great Schools” – that considers trust, supportive environment, community-family ties, and other non-traditional metrics (if you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to look at your school’s Quality Report under the new framework). DOE has also reduced the use of State tests for grade promotion decisions in favor of an approach using multiple measures and professional judgment.

Both President Obama and Governor Cuomo, who once pushed policies reliant on high-stakes testing, have adjusted their views, and education policies are shifting. New York State law no longer permits middle and high schools to use state tests as the sole or primary criteria in admissions decisions. New NYS Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Chancellor Betty Rosa seem open to working on a new framework for testing and evaluation in our schools.

In the meantime: you have the right to make the decision about whether your child will take the NYS tests or opt out.

The NYC Department of Education encourages you to take them. Chancellor Fariña’s letter notes that this year’s tests will have no impact on teacher or principal evaluations. They have fewer questions and will not have a fixed time limit, so students can work at their own pace. “Test results,” she continues, “give the Department of Education important information to ensure that we are holding ourselves accountable to improve instruction and for continued academic progress.”

Some parents and educators encourage opting out, for the individual needs of kids (e.g. students with IEPs, recently-arrived immigrants whose first language is not English, students with anxiety), or as part of the Opt-Out effort to continue building pressure to change the way New York State assessment is done in our schools.

The decision whether to take the tests or opt-out is a personal one for each family.

If you choose to Opt Out, you must write a letter to your child’s principal. More information on how to opt out is available here.

If your kids are taking the tests, help them get a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast tomorrow morning, make sure they have sharpened pencils, and encourage them to do the best they can, rather than worry about the results.

While many positive changes have occurred, real concerns remain. I welcome the continued discussion about transparency (our educators should be able to see the tests, after they are over), whether the tests are well-aligned to the curriculum, and whether they are appropriate for students with learning disabilities or English Language Learners. And while the State suspended the link between the tests and teacher evaluation, that is not permanent.

I would like to see more “diagnostic” tests for our kids, that help specifically identify what they need to learn, and are then given again to see if they did. Schools themselves could be evaluated with a test like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is only given to a random subset of kids, so every kid does not have to take the test every year. And it sure seems like the State tests could – at least – be 2 days instead of 3.

Together, we will continue working to build a school system that focuses on student achievement based on the diverse set of dreams we have for our kids, offers holistic education including arts and PE and teamwork and problem-solving, and equips all our children for success in the world they are going to inherit.

If you have questions or concerns, or to be part of our ongoing conversation about public education, please contact Vicki Sell in my office at (718) 499-1090 or vsell [at] council [dot] nyc [dot] gov.

Thanks, and good luck to you and your kids, whatever you decide.

Brad Lander

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