Features

N.Y. students protest standardized testing

The Associated Press
Friday May 04, 2001

SCARSDALE, N.Y. — Nearly 200 eighth-graders boycotted a state science exam with their parents’ blessing Thursday in this well-to-do community of doctors, corporate executives and other high-achievers. 

The school district in this New York City suburb said 195 of its 290 eighth-graders skipped the test to protest standardized exams and the increasing amount of classroom time spent preparing for them. 

The students in one of the nation’s top-ranked school districts will not face any punishment, though they will likely be offered another chance to take the exam. 

The boycott is part of a nationwide movement against the tests and there have been boycotts in Michigan and Massachusetts. Critics say test preparation is interfering with the curriculum and costing students in-depth instruction in broader subjects.  

Teachers and principals are increasingly being evaluated on how well their students perform on the exams. 

States insist that schools need not revamp their curricula to meet the standards. But tests scores are often published in local newspapers, giving residents and prospective residents a guide to evaluate schools.  

All states now require students to take math and reading tests in at least two grades, and 38 reward or sanction schools and school districts on the basis of student performance, according to the Education Commission of the States. 

Defenders of annual testing say it gives schools valuable information about students’ strengths and weaknesses. President Bush has proposed linking federal school funding to test results. 

The parents in Scarsdale actually have the support of most school officials, who feel their community was doing fine educating its children before the tests came along in recent years. There will be eight days of exams in May and June for eighth-graders alone. 

Superintendent Michael McGill told parents recently that rather than “teaching to the tests,” Scarsdale should go back to a middle school curriculum that emphasizes projects, labs, research and discussion — even if it means lower test scores. 

State education spokesman Tom Dunn was dismayed by Thursday’s boycott. 

“It’s unfortunate that students missed the test because these tests are designed to help determine which students need extra help,” he said. 

The boycott had elements of a military operation. Since school officials had declared that any eighth-graders who were in the building would have to take the exam, parents took turns ferrying children to and from school as each class took the test. 

The windows of some cars displayed miniature “STOP” signs, an acronym for State Testing Opposed by Parents. 

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On the Net: 

Education Commission of the States: http://www.ecs.org 

National Association of State Boards of Education: http://www.nasbe.org