New York City teachers and students express their views about opting out of the Common Core Standardized MLA and ELA exams.
PRODUCED AND FILMED BY ASHLEY OLIVER
By Ashley Oliver
New York State education is at a crossroad with students, parents of students, and states’ educational policy makers. At the forefront of the ‘tug-of-war’ is high–stakes testing.
Students are generally averse to taking standardized exams, but in recent years, a growing number of parents are instructing their children to opt out of standardized exams. There is a mounting opposition to reject teaching to the test, and to foster a curriculum that emphasizes critical-thinking.
“Board of Ed (education) created this test for students to fail,” said Olga Sligh in an interview, 54, a school psychologist at Roberto Clemente Public School in East New York, Brooklyn. “[Board of Education] did not think of the impact Common Core would have on students, parents, and teachers, especially black and Latino students.”
The number of students opting out of the standardized exams has increased by nearly 64%, according to New York State Allies for Public Education, which is a group of parents and residents who advocate reduced testing, statistics reveal 177,249 students opted out of the English Language Arts standardized test last week. However, under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new April 1st budget deal, the more students who opt out, the less funding public schools will receive.
The dissent among students, teachers, and parents over testing is the rejection of theCommon Core’s principle that student academic growth can be measured solely by a standardized exam.
In an interview, Shondra Whaley, 43, a fifth grade teacher at Roberto Clemente Public School said, “It’s not realistic for students to take all these tests. Students academic ability shouldn’t be confined to a test.”
Whaley believes Cuomo’s teacher evaluation system is not effective. “More than half my class didn’t perform at grade level before I got them. Teachers should have more jurisdiction on what students learn,” she said.
Peter Ashfield, 14, an eighth grader at North Star Academy in Flatbush, Brooklyn expressed concern about undue stress caused by lengthy testing,
“I have a 94 average and I still have to get extra tutoring to help me finish this test on time. [The exams] are really long with Common Core. I would opt out too if I knew because I didn’t really learn much, I only learned how to take a long test in two hours,” said Ashfield in an interview.
Meanwhile, in an interview, Lorraine Trimm, 41, a fourth grade teacher at Roberto Clemente Public School said, “Kids will opt out because the test wasn’t introduced correctly. The old standardized test was gradually introduced with the correct curriculum. When my daughter is of age to take the exam, I wouldn’t want her to take it either because it dumbs down the learning process and teaches [students] process of elimination.”
To add to the chorus of discontent, Michael Straughn, 44, a senior movement-science major at York College in Jamaica, Queens, voices his concerns about the emphasis of academics at the expense of music and art in school under the Common Core Curriculum.
“What ever happened to art?” asked Straughn in an interview. “I didn’t make my son take the exam and he’s in an honors program. In England, we had fun integrated into the curriculum, but now students are seen as products to make money off of,” he said.
Proponents of testing firmly believe that assessment of student growth over the course of a school year is best achieved through formative assessment.
In an interview, Jinny Chung, 58, the assistant principal of Philippa Schuyler Middle School in Bushwick, Brooklyn, said, “The test introduces students to a different aspect of critical thinking skills. That’s what students need, but the test should have been gradually introduced. Students should take the test because it’s training them for the writing skills they need to acquire in college. [Students] can’t just give up in the real world.”
Another criticism leveled at the Common Core Curriculum is the apparent profit motive at the expense of students’ education, particularly in low-income communities.
“Students are on different grade levels,” Whaley said. She continued, “America is supposed to be where children thrive in education, but it feels like this a money making experiment. The Board of Education cares more about a test than the students’ needs.”