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Springville-GI students boycott mandated state tests, district calls for abolishment

SPRINGVILLE — More than 60 students from the Springville-Griffith Institute School District sat out elementary and intermediate-level mandated state testing this week, as parents pulled their students out of the local school, in protest of the mandated English Language Arts tests. Springville resident Chris Cerrone, who removed his fourth grade daughter from the testing, said that he and his fellow parents are taking their students out of the tests, in an effort to express their displeasure with the effect standardized testing has, on their children’s education.

“New York state has no provision for opting out of the tests, so we have elected to boycott the tests,” Cerrone said. “Schools are supposed to test every student, with the exception of those with severe disabilities. We parents are seeing that education has gotten to the point, now, where these tests are driving all instruction.”

According to www.wnyforpubliced.com, a website created by New York state parents, to disseminate information about standardized testing and the boycott, standardized tests are making up 25 percent of students’ academic year and requiring students to “teach to the test.

“My kids bring home worksheets that, if you look at them, look just like these standardized tests,” Cerrone said. “It’s not like when we were in school. These tests are being used to evaluate schools and teachers, as well. I find that troublesome, that schools are now forced to emphasize test preparation, more than learning.

According to S-GI Superintendent of Schools Paul Connelly, 47 students at Springville Middle School, 17 students at Springville Elementary School and two students at Colden Elementary School chose to not take the ELA tests.

“We are trying to work with everyone,” Connelly said, of the students’ decision to boycott the tests. “We have sought guidance from the state education department and not received any information on how to proceed, so we have decided to work with the parents, to the best of our ability.”

The New York State Department of Education reported that students who do not take the tests and do not make up the tests, during a designated make-up period, have their scores recorded as “invalid,” so they do not count for the school or against the individual.

“The impact this would have would be that Springville Middle School might not make [Adequate Yearly Progress], but we don’t really know the exact consequences, at this point,” Connelly said.

Adequate Yearly Progress is a measurement, defined by the United States Federal No Child Left Behind Act, that allows the United States Department of Education to determine how every public school and school district in the country is performing, according to results on standardized tests.

In New York state, AYP is determined by a series of factors. According to the NYSDOE, AYP is first determined by the school’s participation rate, based on the current year’s data. If the current year’s data does not meet the 95 percent participation rate criteria, the previous year’s data and the current year can be combined, to determine a participation rate. If that rate is still not met, the school will fail to make AYP, regardless of the participating students’ scores.

If a school does not meet AYP for several years, it will be designated a “school in need of improvement,” which requires that school to take steps to improve students’ academic achievement.

Connelly said that, although the students’ opting out of the tests does not impact their individual scores, it does impact the school’s AYP record, which, in turn, has an impact on state funding.

“The thing is, according to the new [Annual Professional Performance Review] language, a lot of the kids who opted out of these tests would have done very well,” Connelly said. “It brings down the [score level], for the school, as a whole.”

There has been ongoing discussion at S-GI School Board meetings about the impact state testing has, on the students’ education. Although a “high stakes test” resolution, introduced by Board Member Kara Kane on Oct. 23 failed, a new resolution, with adjusted language, was presented and carried, at the April 9 meeting.

The S-GI school board passed a resolution that “calls upon members of the New York State Legislature and the New York State Education Department to seek legislation and regulatory practices, that will take immediate action to eliminate mandated, stand-alone field testing practices in New York state.”

According to that resolution, mandated state tests overly tax faculty, who must differentiate instruction for students who are or are not achieving goals; administrators, who must support the educators; students, who “are committed to learning that is challenging, tied to real world issues, open to divergent cultures and meaningful problem solving” and the community, by directing funds away from other programs.

The resolution further stated that “the plethora of NYS summative assessments, APPR assessments and now field testing requirements continually disrupt classroom instruction, to promote a system of accountability that detracts from the quality, essence and joy of true, educational growth and progress.”

Connelly said that he expects students will sit out the math tests next week, as well, but that he is unable to tell, ahead of time, whether that will be the case.

“These tests are not a graduation requirement. They are not a requirement to advance to the next grade. They are being used to evaluate schools and teachers, and they’re harmful for education,” Cerrone said.

“This [boycott] is not to blame the teachers,” said Cerrone, who is a teacher in the Hamburg School District. “Their hands are tied by these regulations, and we think that’s wrong. This is to protest a policy that’s harming education.”

More information about mandated state testing, including the full text of the resolution, may be found on the S-GI District website, www.springvillegi.org.
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