In April the Truth About Testing Act was introduced in the New York State Assembly and Senate. In short, the bill calls on Education Commissioner John B. King to compile information for each school district – over 700 in the state – regarding the cost to the district for Common Core testing and the amount of time students are missing in direct instruction due to the tests. The study would include an anonymous statewide survey to find out how much time is spent on test preparation and its effect on the quality of instruction. Teachers would also be asked for their opinions about how student assessment could be improved.
The data collected from the field would be disaggregated into several groups: students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, English language learners, general education students, for example. In addition to the Truth About Testing Bill, a second bill would require the commissioner to develop regulations regarding the administration of tests to children in grades K-2. The bill would allow testing in those grades for diagnostic purposed only.
The push for the bill comes from truthabouttesting.org, sponsored by NYSUT, New York State United Teachers. Despite the concern about self-interest, few can argue about the need to evaluate what Common Core is costing kids in terms of time, effort, and stress. In addition, we need to get a composite picture of what kinds of instructional experiences have been jettisoned in order to make room for test prep and testing.
Adding to concerns about Common Core testing are the difficulty of the tests themselves and the widespread technical failures and interruptions experienced in numerous states that attempted to test kids online, a requirement in 2014-15. Scores themselves have yet to be released in New York State, but members of the state board of regents cautioned back in March to expect lower scores. Technical failures were experienced in many of the other 45 states that have adopted Common Core. Thousands of students found computers slow to load questions or experienced being closed out of testing as they were answering. Still others were unable to even log in.
I expect that enthusiasm for the passage of New York’s Truth About Testing Act will increase as scores are released and schools are ranked later on this year. Actually acknowledging the educational and financial impact of all this testing would add a new aspect to the testing argument – factual evidence instead of bias, opinion, and blame. Too bad we had to put all our kids through this nonsense first. I’m optimistic this bill might bring things into perspective, especially since NYSUT is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest political contributor in the state.