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Measuring Progress On Testing

How do you measure progress? That’s great question. In the fight to reduce standardized testing and return decision-making to classroom teachers, some critics say New York is moving too slowly.

They say: There’s too much testing! Let teachers teach!

In response to that fierce criticism, the Board of Regents took an important step recently to address the widespread belief by parents and educators that New York State tests students far too much.

The Regents reduced standardized testing in English Language Arts and Math from six days to four days … a 33 percent decrease that will re-capture two additional days next year for teaching and learning.   I applauded that move as a positive step.  

However, the State Education Department also placed a gag order on teachers that prohibited them from discussing Regents’ exams.  

NYSUT – the union I lead – jumped in on behalf of teachers.  Teachers are professionals who must be free to speak out if they believe test questions are unfair … or contain errors that would hurt their students.  We insisted on transparency in testing and the Department quickly responded to our concerns.  The gag order was rescinded and now teachers can communicate about the exams after they are fully administered.

I see both of these as signs of slow, steady progress.

Teachers and parents, working together, are in the process of banishing the test-and-punish agenda to the ash heap of history.

Under pressure from parents, teachers and teachers’ unions, New York has shortened both the number of questions on state tests and – now – the number of days devoted to standardized testing.

Under pressure from teachers and parents, the Common Core is gone.  Good riddance!

Instead, New York is in the process of adopting Next Generation standards.

Together, we’ve won a moratorium on the use of invalid and inaccurate Common Core tests.  These flawed tests can’t be used to hurt students or educators – a decision that came because of the powerful opt-out movement led by parents and teachers.

Whether this progress is too slow … about right … or downright quick, I’ll leave to others. But I will say the progress we made this year is real and is having a positive impact on the classroom. Teaching and learning is winning out over testing. Little by little, a little is becoming a lot.

In the fall, the state will turn its attention to how teachers should be evaluated. That’s the next battle, and it is going to be a difficult one. Teachers want their evaluations to be fair and meaningful.

They want evaluations to be decided locally… by their own communities.  To borrow a cliché … one size does not fit all.   And, they don’t want to be judged by how their students perform on a standardized test of dubious value.

I know that teachers and parents are going to press just as strongly. And, I’m confident that we will not only make progress, but we will prevail.

Andy Pallotta is president of the 600,000-plus member New York State United Teachers.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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