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Malone school board urged to protest state’s high stakes testing

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Many Malone Central School District teachers are concerned by the amount of standardized testing being required in classrooms, and two of them on Tuesday requested the Board of Education to pass a resolution protesting it.

While board members decided to review a sample resolution, several of them spoke out against the testing as well.

If the board does adopt a resolution, it will join a growing list of school districts throughout the state whose teachers and administrators feel the same way.

High school social studies teacher Nate Hathaway and eighth-grade English/language arts teacher Brianne Iby, president and vice president of the Malone Federation of Teachers, respectively, proposed the idea to the board of education during its meeting Tuesday night. They noted that more than 75 of school districts have already adopted resolutions against “high stakes testing.”

Mr. Hathaway said that there are many arguments against the testing. He noted that testing ignores other types of learning in the classroom and said the tests do not promote a love of learning.

Mr. Hathaway also said testing narrows a curriculum.

“One of the discussions we regularly have is the idea that, well, we’re going to eliminate certain parts of the curriculum in our classrooms since they never test it anyway,” he said, “and that’s unfortunate.”

With the narrow scope of topics brought up on a test, Mr. Hathaway added that certain topics students find interesting could be eliminated from a curriculum.

Another reason to oppose increasing amounts of testing, Mr. Hathaway said, is that the best indicator of how students will perform in college is their high school grades, not the SAT, ACT or other test scores. He added that the tests should be used for diagnostic purposes instead of for other reasons.

Mr. Hathaway said more testing is difficult on students. “There’s the stress that’s involved in these tests,” he said.

Ms. Iby spoke about how the tests affect students personally and how the outcomes of the tests could make students insecure about their academic performance or make them feel inadequate.

She noted that students who normally do well in school or in certain subjects get failing test scores. Ms. Iby added that she and her fellow teachers tell students every day that they’re smart and capable of doing well, but the test scores say otherwise.

Mr. Hathaway described why passing the resolution was important.

“It sends a statement that at this local level that we’re looking out for the best interests of our students,” he said.

School board President Wayne Rogers said the New York State School Boards Association is looking critically at standardized testing.

“My thought on this is ... I would certainly want to look over this,” he said, adding that changing state standardized test requirements will take awhile. “This isn’t something that will be changed in a month or two.”

School Superintendent Jerry Griffin noted that while Mr. Hathaway and Ms. Iby seem passionate about the issuehe believes there is some good that’s come out of the new Common Core State Standards initiative. Mr. Hathaway said after the meeting that Malone teachers have more of an issue with the amount of testing rather than the entire initiative.

“I think we as adults in the district need to be very careful with what we do with these test results,” Mr. Griffin said, adding that this goes for not only teachers, but parents as well. “These assessments are directly tied to a teacher’s APPR [Annual Professional Performance Review] scores, which I will say publicly is a bit ridiculous.”

Mr. Griffin added that the district has no control over whether to give the tests.

Board members also spoke about standardized testing and teacher requirements.

“Teaching is becoming so hard. What type of people are going to want to go into this profession?” asked Arlie Collins, board vice president and a teacher at St. Regis Falls Central School District. “They’re going to get so beat up. ... That concerns me a lot.”

Mr. Griffin said Mr. Rogers will probably have conversations with board members to see if they want to pass a resolution, and, if so, how it will be worded.

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