Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 10, 2013

Teachers ask for support on tests

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — School boards across the state are being asked by the New York State United Teachers union for support in the group’s resolution against “over-reliance on state testing.”

The Lockport Education Association, the city school district teachers union, spoke to Board of Education members Wednesday about supporting NYSUT’s campaign.

“We’re appealing to the commission of education and the Board of Regents about the reliance of overtesting from standardized tests,” Arlene Reese, LEA president, said. “The testing situation is definitely affecting in-class instruction.”

NYSUT says it is concerned about the loss of instruction time in the classroom, as well as the funding of the testing, Reese said.

State testing includes English language arts and math exams for each grade, grades three through eight, as well as Regents exams. The change is the length of the tests. For example, at the elementary level, there’s about three weeks of time spent on testing.

At the fourth grade level, kids are subject to series of three tests over three days, roughly 70 minutes per test. The math exams are also three days, 70 minutes each for the first two days and 90 minutes for the last day, said Joe Flaherty, a fourth grade teacher at George Southard.

“We’re not saying that assessments are bad, how else do we know how our students are doing, how else do we know how to focus on?” Flaherty said. “It’s a lot to handle all at once.”

The changes are a result of New York’s implementing of rigorous new English and math standards. The state is one of 45 that have adopted the Common Core standards, a uniform set of benchmarks which include a dozen changes in the way students are taught. From kindergarten through 12th grade, the goal is building an educational foundation that supports a student’s future.

This year, changes were made to the ELA and math exams. Regents exams and other state tests will follow suit next year. 

And then there will be a big change, as in 2014-15, the goal is to have all state assessments taken by students online. State assessment results are a major factor in the Annual Professional Performance Review for teachers and principals, as well.

All of these changes are courtesy of the Race To The Top federal initiative, which gave money to states that create ways to overhaul and improve education.

Other districts have joined NYSUT’s appeal to the commissioner, Reese said. NYSUT simply wants to cut back on the amount of time spent on testing.

Parents have opted out because of the anxiety, Reese said kids in Lockport have actually gotten sick from the anxiety of the tests. Less than a handful of Lockport kids who opted out of tests this year, said Superintendent Michelle Bradley.

Board members will consider NYSUT’s resolution, Board President John Linderman said.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.