NYSUT, others say ‘pump the brakes’ on state test bragging

Stephon Johnson | 8/29/2019, 2:40 p.m.
New York City’s mayor and the schools chancellor touted the latest gains on the state English and math exams, but ...
Testing

New York City’s mayor and the schools chancellor touted the latest gains on the state English and math exams, but the state teachers’ union wants them to slow down.

This month, Bill de Blasio and Richard Carranza praised the gains the city’s public school children made on the state exams. This year, 47.4 percent of students met proficiency standards in English, a 0.7-point increase from last year. New York City students outperformed their state peers on the state English exams for the fourth year in a row. In math, 45.6 percent of students met the standards, which is a 2.9-point increase from 2018. New York City students’ proficiency in both math and English improved across all ethnic groups.

Speaking at P.S. 69 in the Bronx, de Blasio said that the improvements made were vast and some didn’t show up in the records.

“The test scores that we’re talking about today do not even reflect pre-K at its fullest, because 2014 was a year we took a huge step forward—we got to 53,000 kids in pre-K, but it wasn’t until the next year that we were able to make it a universal right,” said de Blasio. “These test scores tell us there’s something to be very hopeful about, but they don’t reflect how much better pre-K instruction is today than even five years ago, because our kids are benefiting more and more from educators who’ve gotten so much more training year by year.”

But the state teachers’ union didn’t want to celebrate too loudly. New York State United Teachers said that even though test scores improved, they have a lot more to go.

“While it is better that test scores increased slightly, we must not paper over the fact that the state’s standardized testing system—and the way it determines student proficiency—remains badly broken,” read NYSUT’s statement. “Too many students are forced to take tests that are too long and include questions that are not developmentally appropriate. Invalid scoring benchmarks continue to mislabel children. And the rush to adopt computer-based testing has been a complete failure for the second year in a row.”

This year, NYSUT launched the “Correct The Tests” campaign to bring awareness to the issues students face when taking the grades 3-8 ELA and math state exams including widespread computer failures that hurt students. A report released by the union in April, detailed how the failures of last year’s state exams repeated itself this year despite the New York State education department saying that previous failures wouldn’t be repeated.

NYSUT delegates at the union’s annual Representative Assembly called on the New York State Board of Regents to direct the state education commissioner and education department to make changes to fix the testing system and the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test.

Back at P.S. 69, Carranza wanted to let the media know that while tests scores are great, it’s not the only thing the city’s uses to measure success.

“So, as you write your stories and you report on your stories, don’t just focus on the test scores, look at the community, look at the growth, look at what children are learning, look at what teachers are doing, look at how that community has grown,” said Carranza. “Don’t just report the test scores, because it’s one of many, but it is an exciting day nonetheless...”