Why Students and Parents MUST Boycott the N. Y. S. Standardized Tests!

By C. Arthur Reavis

As this is the September/October issue of the People’s Press I thought it appropriate to remind students (grades K-12), parents, and teachers why it is imperative that all New York State (NYS) standardized tests used to “measure student performance” and determine the “effectiveness” of teachers/schools be boycotted. No matter what threats are levied by the School Districts the truth remains that these test are not designed to better educational outcomes, but to teach students and teachers’ subservience, and make big bucks for big companies, like the “educational” company Pearson. By restricting content and making a single test’s results so far reaching how can teachers and students think creatively or critically, especially of the poor educational system to which they are bound? The added benefit from the perspective of budget hawks (like Governor Cuomo) is to turn teachers into precarious workers – with the constant threat of arbitrary dismissal teachers are less able to fight for workers’ rights, and against unfair labor practices and contract breaches. Here are just a few reasons why these test should be boycotted:

Tenure in many states, including NYS is under legal attack. For example, a recent case in California, Vergara v. State of California, held that teacher tenure was unconstitutional! The backers of “educational reforms” (right-wing/pro-business/pro-privatization) market tenure as bad because firing “ineffective” teachers takes too long and is too expensive. The point of tenure for public school teachers, however, is to protect good/excellent teachers from being fired for non-educational reasons, such as personal beliefs, non-educational conflicts with administrators, conflicts with school board members or political/ideological differences with all of the aforementioned and community members. These exams will be used in the fight to do away with tenure for teachers.

No one test, given on a single day, can provide, with any scientific accuracy, a metric of overall performance. In fact, studies have shown that something as simple as the teacher proctoring/giving the test can affect student’s performance greatly either way.

Teachers should not be held responsible for social ills outside the classroom.   With these tests teachers are held responsible for society’s ineffective response to drugs, domestic violence, parental/family member metal illness, poverty, hunger…etc. No test has ever been developed that can account for these factors. Yet, new “reforms” want to hold teachers in the classroom responsible for these societal factors via students’ performance on these “tests.” To quote Former Assistant Secretary of Education, education historian, and former supporter of these so-called “reforms” turned harsh critic of them, Professor Diane Ravitch: “Our schools are failing because our society is failing.” It’s not the other way around!

The tests are flawed. It is not uncommon for teaching guidelines to stress concern criteria while the test emphasizes very different skill sets. Thus, students and teachers are evaluated (and fired) on things neither knew they were supposed to know! Additionally, not only do students NOT have any consequences for a poor performance but NYS takes great lengths to ensure the secrecy of the questions…so as not to have another embarrassing moment such as, the infamous and absurd questions on the NYS 8th grade reading test, about a talking pineapple developed by private testing company Pearson.

Finally, these tests and “reforms” are being used across the country to increase corporate profits and defund public schools. Private foundations such as, the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation owned by mega wealthy corporatist are big advocates of such reforms. Why? The stated goal of the WFF: “Our core strategy is to infuse competitive pressure into America’s K-12 education system by increasing the quantity and quality of school choices available to parents, especially in low-income communities.” To break that down, their real goal is to DE-fund public schools and allow tax dollars to subsidize private for-profit and sometimes religiously affiliated schools. Are we expected to believe that the owners of Wal-Mart, (the Walton family worth over $150 BILLION), that refuses to pay their lowest level employees a living wage has the best interests of students and teachers in mind with these “reforms”? No! They are trying to make a compliant workforce and force veteran teachers to keep their mouths shut!

The answer: BOYCOTT THE EXAMS!

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