By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Parents in more than 60 schools across the state are boycotting what are being called “stand-alone” field tests scheduled for middle and elementary schools this week.
Advocates from at least 10 educational organizations say that the tests — which require children to miss out on valuable learning time from June 5 to 12 — are conducted for the benefit of for-profit publisher Pearson, which has a $32 million contract with the New York State Education Department.
Parents complain that their kids are being used as guinea pigs to enrich a private company.
“All this testing is crowding real learning out of the classroom,” said Dani Gonzalez, a Bronx parent, in a statement. “My children can’t learn when all they do is prepare for tests and take tests.”
“More and more, state testing determines what children learn in school, how teachers teach, and even whether or not teachers will remain in the classroom,” said Brooklyn parent Sonia Murrow in a statement.
Pearson, publisher of the Financial Times, FT Prentice Hall and Penguin books, earns more than 60 percent of its profits from its education division, which brought in roughly $800 million in North America last year.
The Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) passed a resolution on May 31 endorsing the boycott and urging all parents to opt their children out of the field tests. The Community Education Councils (CECs) of District 20 (Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Borough Park, Kensington) in Brooklyn and District 3 in Manhattan (Upper West Side) also passed resolutions to boycott the tests.
The Pearson field tests follow April’s state-mandated English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams, tests that were longer than those given in previous years, critics say, largely because they contained “embedded” field-test items.
Over a two-week period, students in grades 3 though 8 8 sat for tests 90 minutes a day for six days. Students with special needs sat for the tests for up to three hours each day.
“It was horrible,” says Tony Kelso, a boycotting parent from Manhattan, who said in a statement that his son couldn’t even take recess on test days.
Disclosures about problems with the quality of this year’s state tests — 29 questions have been invalidated so far — have raised questions about the validity of the entire testing enterprise, protesters say.
Groups supporting the boycott include Alliance for Quality Education, Change the Stakes, Class Size Matters, Coalition for Educational Justice, Edu4, Parent Voices New York, Public Education Matters, Restore Education Funding, Nyack/Valley Cottage, and Time Out From Testing.