The Niagara County PTA has joined in voicing its objections to the state's newest testing protocols for students in grades 3 to 8.
At their first meeting of the new academic year, the Niagara Region PTA passed a resolution calling on the state Education Department to enact a moratorium on the state's 3-8 testing program. This resolution will be submitted for consideration as an emergency resolution at the NYS PTA Convention in Saratoga Springs in November.
The state's testing program raised the ire of parents, teachers and students all over New York this past April when all students in grades 3 to 8 were required to sit for 90 minutes of testing in math and ELA each day for six days, for a total of nine hours. By comparison, the LSAT required for students to get into law school takes about three hours to complete, and the test to become a New York City police officer takes about 90 minutes, the PTA notes.
The PTA document, richly supported by recent research, surveys of parents, and the first-hand experiences of families with the sometimes devastating effects of over testing now present in schools, serves as a stinging indictment of the State Education Department's recent reforms centered on student testing and teacher evaluation.
At the heart of the resolution is a concern for the well being of children, and it documents the growing body of research showing that over relying on high stakes testing in grades 3 to 8 causes "teaching to the test," narrowed curriculum opportunities, increased emotional stress among children, the marginalization of both very high performing students and students with special needs, an overall lowering of standards and disregard for individual difference, critical thinking and human creativity.
"There are so many families who see their children suffer from anxiety and fear caused by these tests," said MaryBeth Carroll, Niagara Region PTA director. "It seems as if we've gotten away from the purpose of these tests - to identify areas where schools need to improve, rather than evaluate the child and the teacher."
Dr. John McKenna, principal at Fletcher Elementary School in Tonawanda and education chair of the Niagara Region PTA, said, "We want to develop a system with true accountability that is beneficial to our students and teachers."
"When Gov. Cuomo announced this legislation, he told us that students didn't have a lobbyist and that he is the students' lobbyist." I think he forgot that our children and families to advocate for them," Carroll said. "We are their lobbyists, and we don't want this for our children. They deserve better."
The Niagara Region PTA represents 33 separate PTA units as well as two PTA councils, located within the following school districts: Albion, Barker, Grand Island, Holley, Kendall, Lewiston-Porter, Lockport, Lyndonville, Medina, Newfane, North Tonawanda, Royalton-Hartland, Starpoint, Tonawanda and Wilson.