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Teachers Cite Testing Trauma in Call for Legislation

Some students reported spending five to six hours on tests designed to last only two hours. (tjevans/Pixabay)
Some students reported spending five to six hours on tests designed to last only two hours. (tjevans/Pixabay)
May 15, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. – Educators say recent problems with high-stakes testing in New York's public schools highlight the need for change. New York State United Teachers, the union representing educators across the state, has released a report called "The Tyranny of Testing," a compilation of first-hand accounts of problems students and teachers faced in the most recent round of standardized testing for grades three to eight.

Supporters of standardized tests say teacher evaluations must have an objective, statewide measurement and the tests fill that need.

But according to Carl Korn, chief press officer for the union, some students spent five or six hours taking exams that were supposed to last no more than two. And that was just one problem.

"We have reports of students in tears, students getting physically sick, and in testing through April, many students found that they worked hours on their exam only to have the computer lose all their work," he explains.

The union is calling on the leadership of the state Senate to allow a vote on Senate Bill 8301, which would end reliance on standardized testing in teacher evaluations.

Korn says the bill would return control over evaluations to local school districts and teachers, allowing them to create procedures that help teachers grow professionally while meeting the unique needs of their students.

"By de-emphasizing state standardized testing, teachers can get back to what parents and educators and students really want, and that's a more healthy classroom environment," he says.

He says the bill would give districts the flexibility to curtail testing, especially in the earlier grades, and bar standardized test scores from becoming part of a student's permanent record.

Korn points out that the bill passed in the state Assembly with only one dissenting vote, and 54 of the 63 state senators, including a majority of Republicans, support the measure.

"Sen. (John) Flanagan, the majority leader, must bring this bill to the floor," he adds. "The message that the students, parents and educators are sending is, 'Let us teach, let them learn, let the Senate vote.'"

Korn adds that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated that he would support a more fair and meaningful system of teacher evaluations.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY