Forum draws criticism of school test burden

There was no love for state tests or the state Education Department at a forum in Albany on Wednesda

There was no love for state tests or the state Education Department at a forum in Albany on Wednesday organized by state legislators from the Capital Region.

Local superintendents, school officials, a parent of a student, a teacher and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District eighth-grader Colin Winters spoke about the problems they deal with on a day-to-day basis because of burdens from state tests.

“I feel kids are overworked and stressed out. … The last thing my peers and I need is another test,” said Winters, who said he was fan of learning and school.

“There is one thing that makes me dread school and that is standardized testing,” he said.

The 10 speakers all expressed discontent with the way tests and regulations are handed down from the state Education Department, which removes autonomy from teachers.

“A lot of your teachers will tell you, ‘We’re not teaching, we’re testing, and then we’re correcting,’ ” said Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Superintendent Ray Colucciello.

He said it’s not clear whether all of these tests are measuring anything meaningful. “We’ve got to figure out what will really make a difference,” Colucciello said.

The event was organized by Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, and state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, with a bipartisan mix of Assembly members, including James Tedisco, R-Glenville, Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, John McDonald, D-Cohoes, and Phil Steck, D-Colonie, in attendance.

Fahy asked the panel of speakers whether fewer days of testing or questions might help. Schenectady City School District second-grade teacher Katie Ferguson, who was the state’s teacher of the year in 2012, recommended fewer questions and a shorter time frame for testing. She added that it would be hard for her to take a 90-minute test.

Standardized tests for Ferguson’s students in the past two weeks have included physical education, English language arts and student learning objectives.

Describing the time spent on standardized tests, she highlighted the complaint of a second-grader who wants to know, “Why do we have to take so many tests?”

The requirement of teacher and principal evaluations also came under fire during the forum, with the merit and time commitment questioned repeatedly.

Regarding their potential effectiveness, Guilderland Central School District Superintendent Marie Wiles said, “The jury is out.”

Tkaczyk said the Capital Region state legislators will be requesting a meeting with state Education Commissioner John King to discuss the sentiments gathered in Wednesday’s forum.

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