Education group opposed to 'high-stakes' testing

Sep 11, 2018

Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

Education advocates in Rochester met Tuesday at Writers and Books to stand against high-stakes standardized testing, a practice they say is harmful to students, teachers and schools.

Henry Padron, a recently retired teacher from the Rochester City School District, says text anxiety starts early.

"I had a kindergarten student last year whose mom came up to me and said, “Mr. Padron, he’s not sleeping well, he’s not eating well, and when we have our chats, he’s so nervous about these tests he has to take because it's touted, it's do well, get rewards at kindergarten."

He says incentive-based teaching doesn’t work for everyone and that other solutions must be found.

Padron says he also often met with young teachers burned out by the rigid curriculum that "teaching the test" forced on them.

"Quite often, I would have conversations with very frustrated, anxious-ridden, wired-out young people who came to a profession with love, with desire, with creativity, with a vision, with a mission."

They are hoping more parents will get involved or even opt their children out of these tests until a different method is found.

Eileen Graham is a parent whose son was on the honor roll through high school but didn’t do well on tests; here, she mentioned the SATs.

"We say black males are failing at an alarming rate. This was a boy who did well for four years, he took the test, those four years didn’t matter."

Graham now home schools her daughter to avoid the testing.

Dan Drmacich, a retired principal and coordinator for the Rochester Coalition for Public Education, says this focus on testing takes away from art and music skills.

"Our concern is to educate the public about this, through this book, through the speaker, through the groups we are having, and hopefully provoke some type of action that’s going to result in change in the education system."

Author Daniel Koretz will be in town Sept. 27 to discuss his book “The Testing Charade” at Temple B’rith Kodesh.

A representative from the New York State Education Department says they have made changes to the grades 3-8 English and math assessments in response to public feedback. 

They also said they plan to form advisory groups that will include teachers and representatives from NYSUT and UFT and conduct focus groups with educators over the next several months.