This spring I joined my daughter’s elementary school’s High Stakes Testing Committee (HSTC). It’s a group of concerned parents who are interested in spreading information to the larger school body about what high stakes testing is, the impact of high stakes testing on our children’s education, and our options for action. It has been an interesting experience to sit and listen to others, many who do not understand the Department of Education (DoE) here in NYC, try to navigate what the hell is going on. Again, I am thankful for my years in the DoE; my intimate knowledge of this bureaucratic structure is helping me as a parent with kids in public school.
This spring, a small group of parents from the HSTC of the upper grade students managed to get more than 50% of the parents in 4th and 5th grades to have their children refuse the field test given to the students at PS 39. Field tests are the testing company’s (in this case, Pearson’s) way of experimenting with test formats, questions, etc. on live subjects = our children. These field tests happen during instructional time.
As an educational researcher who has done research in the DoE, I find this abhorrent. When I received IRB clearance (Institutional Review Board clearance–a long, twisted and necessary process to gain access to public schools, teachers, and students for educational research purposes), it was CLEARLY stated that I was NOT to interrupt ANY instructional time to give surveys, conduct focus groups, explain who I was/what I was doing to the students, etc. Instructional time was sacred; any research-related work (minus classroom observations) should be done when students were not in class.
Which is why I find it so hypocritical that the DoE is more than okay with allowing a huge corporation take instructional time away from students to pilot tests on them. Of course, they are getting money for it–they are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They are selling our kids’ instructional time to the testing companies.
I am continuing as a member of the High Stakes Testing Committee at my school, and I joined the School Leadership Team (SLT), too, so that I can better understand how this all works as well as collaborate with the administration, teachers, and other parents for smarter and more academically sound solutions for our children in this world of testing nonsense. Because what’s happening now is disturbingly wrong.
And I can’t say that after 13 years of public school, five years of public undergraduate study at UNC Chapel Hill, two years of a Master’s Degree at Brooklyn College, totaling twenty years of public education that I have not contemplated trying to get a job in a private school (one of the few that still provides tuition remission for its employee’s children) so that my children won’t have to go through this crappy system. This would mean abandoning my new career as a professor. This would mean leaving my work with poor, disenfranchised students of color–the work I have now done for 15 years and dream of doing the rest of my life. This would be abandoning everything that I believe public education stands for and can offer. This would mean gutting myself.
The fact that I even contemplate that, a sort of professional annihilation, demonstrates how bad it is getting out there. It’s time to fight, folks.
Little mermaids at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade against high stakes testing!
At our last High Stakes Testing Committee meeting, our host Alan and his wife and kids made a standardized test cake!