Parents of public schools students in New York City (and across New York state) have mobilized for a mass boycott of the new Common Core standardized tests, which started last week. Boycotters said that the new tests include material not yet covered in the current city curriculum.
According to parents and advocacy groups, the numbers of participants in this boycott would be higher if it weren’t for intimidation tactics used by the State Education Department and the Department of Education.
Parents from 33 schools have already told the administration and the teachers that they don’t have permission to administer the tests to their children. Parents have expressed a desire to end use of so-called “high stakes” testing tied to the Common Core curriculum. Parents want teachers to be able to provide creative lessons that include history and the arts instead of just teaching to the test.
According to critics, too much testing has contributed to the recent rise in cheating by teachers and administrators, higher teacher turnover, a decrease in classes that teach the arts and a segregation of students based on exam scores.
According to Chancellor Dennis Walcott of the Department of Education, children are expected to do poorly on this year’s tests because these tests are based on an as-yet-unused curriculum. Parents were also warned that refusing to let their kids take the exam is against the law. But anti-test-taking parents went on with the show. The DOE also said that the new test, while difficult, still includes much of what’s already a part of the Common Core.
Several parents spoke out on how they felt about a consistently changing curriculum at the children’s expense.
“Why put our children through this exercise? This is surely education malpractice. You can also call it child abuse,” said Marco Battistella. “We know our rights as parents, and we have an obligation to protect our children. None of the top performing private schools (where Board of Regents children have attended) give these tests. Could that be why there are no consequences for their opting out?”
Evelyn Cruz followed suit.
“I have watched as my son, who once loved school, now comes home complaining about all the test prep and emphasis on testing,” said Cruz, the parent of a sixth grader. “He doesn’t want to go to school anymore. We parents are coming together to tell the mayor and the chancellor that despite attempts at fear and intimidation, we say, ‘No more!’”
The boycott has a precedent. Back in 2001, two thirds of the eighth grade class at Scarsdale Middle School in Westchester County–with the encouragement of parents, educators, school officials–refused to take the exams.
According to parent Cynthia Copeland, the new test was the last straw with a system she’s grown tired of.
“We have had enough of the endless test prep that comes with high-stakes testing tied to promotion decisions, teacher evaluations, school report card grades and closing of schools,” said Copeland.