I voted no for the so-called education reforms portion of the $141.6 billion New York budget for two reasons. First, they were not “education reforms,” they were “vindictive measures” proposed by the small-minded, bullying Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who wanted to punish the unions and their teachers for not endorsing him for governor. The governor knows nothing about education. And while I’m focusing on education, neither does the mayor know anything about education—end mayoral control now!
Second, these so-called reforms have nothing to do with the budget, and they include a teacher evaluation matrix scheme that will measure teacher performance and student performance by these oppressive high stakes standardized tests.
Our children are forced to take tests so that corporations can make money. In this capitalist economy, human greed is prioritized over human need. Profit over people! Nowhere is this contradiction more glaring than in the abusive use of high stakes standardized testing imposed upon our struggling students and their families. Someone should be arrested for educational malpractice and child abuse. “Test tasking for money making” should be a crime against humanity, especially when it concerns our most vulnerable human beings—our children.
I’ve received letters at my office from parents complaining about the tremendous amount of stress, anxiety and illness these high stakes standardized tests have caused their children and their families. Children have experienced headaches, vomiting, nervousness, uncontrollable urination, etc. All of this for what? So that test manufacturing companies can make mega profits. Let’s put a spotlight on one of these companies—Pearson. Pearson is a British-owned education publishing and assessment corporation. Pearson Education Company was rebranded to Pearson Inc. in 2011, and split into an international and a North American division. Pearson International is headquartered in London and Pearson North America is headquartered in New York City. Though Pearson generates approximately 60 percent of its sales in North America, they operate in more than 70 countries around the world.
In 2010, Pearson agreed to a five-year $32 million contract with the New York Education Department to design tests for students in grades three through eight. In the spring of 2012, the tests that Pearson designed for the Education Department were found to contain more than 30 errors, causing major controversy and calls for the Education Department to terminate Pearson’s contract. Those calls were ignored, and Pearson is still under contract with New York to design tests for our students. Thankfully, the contract ends in 2015, this year.
Why did the Education Department continue a contract with such an incompetent test? Our children, their families, teachers and their educations overall have suffered. Gail Collins, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, in an article titled “A Very Pricey Pineapple,” referring to one of the more than 30 errors in Pearson’s test questions, stated, “We have turned school testing into a huge corporate profit center, led by Pearson.”
I say, don’t mend high stakes standardized testing—end it. Students have more ways to learn than we know how to teach. Student performance should be evaluated by a variety of measures, including independent projects, collaborative projects, ongoing classroom assessments, teacher assessments, class participation and student portfolios. Teachers should be evaluated similarly with a variety of measures. Local testing and classroom testing is sufficient. We do not need high stakes standardized testing.
And by the way, parents have the right to not subject their children to these abusive high stakes standardized tests by exercising their ability to opt-out, to not take these tests. Thousands of parents across the state are presently exercising that right. Education should be for liberation, not for profit-making corporations!