Whether it be stress-related, overload, or simply deciding not to, many more parents are choosing to opt their children out of taking state standardized testing. In New York City schools, the opt-out numbers are rising, something not seen in the past. But with most children coming back from their COVID “layoff”, it is apparent that many are not prepared nor ready for the testing.
Even though schools are doing a large amount of prep work to be ready for standardized testing, it isn’t enough. Or is it too much? East Harlem mother Rosa Diaz, at first, was very confident in her 10-year-old daughter’s readiness to tackle the standardized testing. She was her biggest cheerleader, telling her daughter she believed in her.
After the first day of the English standardized testing, Rosa’s daughter came home wiped out. Her daughter came home the second day in the same condition, if not a bit worse. According to Diaz, some of her daughter’s classmates had an even worse time with a number of them having to stay for hours after school just to finish the tests. Diaz had seen enough.
As the math standardized testing approached, Diaz felt she had to do the proper thing for her daughter. She opted her out. Dias wasn’t alone as a number of other parents decided to do the same for their children.
As far as Diaz knows, this would mark the very first year that parents at her daughter’s school, P.S. 171, have decided to pull children from standardized testing. Other parents in nearby schools are also opting out. Diaz, a District 4 Community Education Council parent leader, is trying to get the word out to as many parents as possible that they do have this option. Most parents are Spanish speaking, so she is not having trouble speaking with them, but it is families who speak various African languages that she is having trouble communicating with. Still, she tries.
While Diaz says anxiety surrounding standardized testing is the main reason for opting out, she also notes the challenges seen by many kids as they have slowly returned from the COVID pandemic. To make matters worse for the kids because of their lengthy absence from school, the children have been inundated with other English and math assessment tests throughout the year. This extra testing is all part of New York City’s academic recovery plan.
City officials claim the extra testing is important to assess where students stand after such a long layoff. They are searching for learning gaps and how they can close them. They refuse to cancel the standardized testing this year, as they did last year, in an attempt to understand the academic failings caused by the pandemic.
Diaz and the other parents who have pulled their children from the state’s standardized testing have a heavy hitter in their corner. New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks has lamented just how much time schools spend preparing kids for the testing. He has called schools “testing mills” wondering on more than one occasion why schools were forsaking the arts and other courses that grab students for the time-wasting test prep.
Standardized testing is mandated by the federal government but U.S. Rep Jamaal Bowman, himself a former Bronx middle school teacher, is drafting legislation in hopes of removing testing as a federal requirement. “Why are we spending so much time on testing? It doesn’t get us to our goal of 100% literacy and ending the achievement gap,” Bowman said to Chalkbeat. “There are more complex challenges, like climate change, racial injustice, inequality. We need to prepare children for that world.”
More often than not now, New York City school districts have started to support the parent’s decision to have their children sit out from standardized testing. Parents are pitching in across the school districts to raise awareness that parents do have this option and if they feel it is necessary, they should take it. “The last two years we have had conversations at our [Community Education Council] meetings, and the superintendent has encouraged principals to engage the parent community,” said Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, another parent leader.
Too much time away from the classroom has caused way too much test prep. Kids are feeling the stress of standardized testing and it is being seen in the drop in test scores. School districts have to stop looking at kids as numbers and start to realize what parents already know – the pandemic has done significant damage and forced testing is not the answer.