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Revolt? Hamburg to Vote on Standardized Testing

(WBEN) Hamburg Central Schools tonight could be the latest of several area districts rebelling against state policy on standardized testing of students by asking the State Education Department to  consider revising the mandates that require them.

"It's asking the state to rethink the excessive testing of students It makes note that we have the shortest school day in the area, how excessive the testing is, how crippling it is to the area and how the privacy issues are not in place."  says Sally Stephenson, a Hamburg board of Education member introducing the measure.

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Retiring Principal Kathleen Knauth
Earlier this year Tonawanda and Grand Island schools passed similar measures. The Niagara Parent Teachers Association is taking a measure to the state PTA for their consideration in November.

And in the Lancaster District, Hillview Elementary Principal Kathleen Knauth recently cited standardized testing and other educational reforms as her reason for stepping down and retiring 6 years early.  (Hear her story above right)

"The pushback is coming basically from parents and educators that believe we have gone too far and too much is too much in this state,"  

      - Walter Polka,  Niagara University education professor

While districts statewide are pressing Albany for fewer tests, state policy remains firm.

"I don't understand the objection to giving a kid a test," says Bob Bennett, chancellor emeritus of the NYS Board Of Regents..

"They are given so we can determine for parents, and teachers, and principals, and superintendents, and school boards and the public to see how well our children are doing in school."

Bennett does acknowledge one reason for the anxiety.

"I think maybe part of the issue may be the test results may be used and will be used to determine 20 percent of the teacher evaluation score," notes Bennett.

Image of Board of Regents Member Robert M. Bennett"How else shall we know given the expenditure of $50 million a year in taxpayer money how our children are doing in core subjects like math and English?"

- Robert Bennett, Chancellor Emeritus, NYS Board of Regents

Bennett says the standards of the test are based on a common core curriculum.

. "The standards are so well developed by leaders that they measure in one moment in time, and it's not the end all or be all nor was it intended to be." 
he says adding that  "You cannot and must not teach to the test"
Polka is a leader of  "The Partnership for Smarter Schools," a loose knit grass roots group lobbying Albany to change the state testing policies. His group held a rally at the University Of Buffalo last month, and attracted approx. 100 parents.

Hamburg is also one of several districts where the pushback is being seen in fewer numbers of students sitting for the tests. 

Springville Griffith Institute saw a six-fold increase in students "opting out" this year.  Similar rising numbers are also reported on Grand Island and in West Seneca. 

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Tim Kremer, Exec. Dir, NYS School Boards Assoc.

"Our belief is they have taken the joy out of teaching and learning," says Polka, a former Lewiston Porter superintendent and Williamsville curriculum official. "The last two weeks have been focused for third fourth and fifth graders on testing.. Throughout the year too many teachers teach to the test as opposed to doing those other things."

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Last  month, Hamburg board member Holly Balaya kept her children home from mandated testing in the Hamburg district, as part of a protest over the costs. 

Balaya says that the districts that can afford to purchase the prep materials from Pearson Educational Services,  the same company that produced the tests do better. That puts districts that are eyeing budget cuts at a distinct dis-advantage, she says. 

Pearson is under investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, after it was discovered they may have paid to send officials and lawmakers to education conferences — in London, Helsinki, Singapore and Rio de Janeiro — since 2008, according to the New York Times.

For years, teachers groups have railed against the testing, saying it puts a focus on the test, and not on critical skills.  The tests are a major part of how the federal and state governments allocate funding for districts, and have also become the centerpiece of the state's new teacher evaluation program.

05/14/2013 8:49AM
Revolt? Hamburg to Vote on Standardized Testing
To much testing? Or a rebellion against being held accountable? Tell your kid's story here
05/14/2013 8:35PM
Dr. Wlliam Cala
Robert Bennett is enigmatic of the failure of the Board of Regents. He is clueless and has been for decades. Has he read no research whatsoever?? Of course not. He is an ideologue. New York bought into the federal extortion of Race to the Top. $700 million to buy into the Common Core. But the joke's on us as implementation is costing much more (See Mid-Hudson study.... sorry, I forgot, he doesn't read research). Regarding the validity of the Common Core's value-added assessments (VAM) perhaps reading Professor Jesse Rothstein's research paper on the topic. Common Core and the corresponding tests are a money grab by corporate interests. Why do you think Gates put $150 million into Common Core? There hundreds of millions to be made on technology here as the tests are to be administered by computer, corrected by same and data into data warehouses. Cash Cow at the expense of children. And Bennett can't see what the fuss is all about!
05/15/2013 1:51PM
Testing fails to measure 21st C. Skills.
Any one who wants to know how well my kids are doing, just stop by and look. A rebel, I refuse to teach English reading in my music class. My students are consistently using the DOK Level 4 or for us old schoolers Blooms taxonomy, upper level thought. There is no bubble sheet for problem solving, collaboration, or creativity. Just let us teach, and let us teach our subjects!!
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