Failing Grade for Elementary-School Tests

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:04

East side parents protest what they say are unfair and overly complex new state tests for elementary students

Upper East Side Following the lead of two Brooklyn schools, dozens of schools in District 2 in Manhattan held demonstrations to voice their criticisms of new state tests they say are unfair and overly burdensome to young students.

Administrators, parents, teachers, and students all gathered in front of P.S. 6 on East 81st street early Friday morning, discussing what they say is the terrible structure of this year's test, along with some students chanting "we are more than a test score!" While some of the kids enjoyed running around holding their handmade signs, the adults all shared similar looks of frustration and anxiety.

The stakes have gotten even higher since last year, for both students and teachers. Students test scores now account for 40% of a teacher's annual evaluation, and they play an important role in a child's acceptance into middle and high schools.

"We're not against improving education or hard work, but we are against the Core Curriculum," P.S. 6 mother Lizette Bochecchio said. "All of us are trying to help our children the best we can, but the format of these tests has made everyone so stressed out. I try to keep that stress away from my kids, but sometimes that feels impossible."

The demonstration at P.S. 6 was inspired by Brooklyn principal Liz Phillips. When state officials didn't take her efforts seriously, principals across District 2 decided to show their support for Phillips. A letter was published on the NYC Public School Parents blog, offering parents a chance to be a part of the demonstration.

"Community School District 2 represents a richly diverse group of school communities and it is not often these days that we have an opportunity to join in a shared effort," the letter read. "Frankly, many of us were disappointed by the design and quality of the tests and stood by helplessly while kids struggled to determine best answers, distorting much of what we'd taught them about effective reading skills and strategies and forgoing deep comprehension for something quite different."

The test was administered to students in grades 3 to 8 over the course of three days, requiring 70 minutes of testing each day. One administrator from P.S. 6, who asked to remain anonymous, saw some of their brightest students breaking down due to the length of the test.

"We had children crying, asking to leave, and many of them were so overcome with anxiety that they couldn't focus," she explained.