The Saratoga Springs City School District in upstate, NY is a high performing school district that has an outstanding reputation in academics and athletics. Their high school girl's cross-country running team has won nationals more than a dozen times over the past few decades. The City of Saratoga is known for being the "August Place to Be" due to their world-famous thoroughbred race track.
In education circles, the school district will now be known for telling the federal and state education departments to back-off where state assessments are concerned. Dan Levy, a reporter for WNYT (News Channel 13. NBC) wrote, "The Saratoga Springs School Board did something extraordinary Tuesday night: they told the State Education Department to bud out and let them educate their kids the way they see fit." Dan Levy
Educators and parents in New York State have an issue with the length of the exams as well as the fact that they are being tied to teacher and administrator evaluation the first year they are aligned to the Common Core State Standards. "Students are being tested on a curriculum they have not had the opportunity to learn," asserted Karen Swift, president of the Saratoga Springs Teachers Association, "Teachers have not had the opportunity to teach. It's like building a house on the wrong foundation."
More and more school districts like Saratoga Springs City School District are standing up against testing because the weight of accountability and mandates have become heavier and heavier every year. Last month, the New Paltz Central School District voted on a resolution telling the NY State Education Department to decrease the amount of testing done to children. The focus on testing takes an educator's focus away from good teaching practices and puts it on test prep.
The reality is that, even in the best districts, testing affects the social-emotional growth of students; especially high stakes testing which is so politically explosive. Testing is forcing a narrowing of the curriculum that is covered in classrooms, which hampers creativity and academic freedom.
In a recent N.Y. Times article, Bronson and Merryman wrote (2013)
"Never before has the pressure to perform on high-stakes tests been so intense or meant so much for a child's academic future. As more school districts strive for accountability, standardized tests have proliferated. The pressure to do well on achievement tests for college is filtering its way down to lower grades, so that even third graders feel as if they are on trial."This year high stakes testing is connected to teacher and administrator evaluation across the country, which makes the test less about the student and more about the teacher. It's a fear many of us have had for many years since our school scores began showing up in newspapers. Many educators used to think their school's scores being published was the worst it would get...