Wednesday, December 2, 2020

PSUC reflects on standardized tests

Plattsburgh State recently hosted a forum to inform and educate Clinton County residents on what standardized testing children of the district and the state would be taking in the weeks to come.

Common Core is the educational standards and testing of New York State’s education policy. In the last few months, Governor Andrew Cuomo has pushed for reforms to the standard, implemented in 2009.

“Because of the adoption of Common Core, private companies — non-teachers — set the standards for these tests,” PSUC Professor of Teacher Education Douglas Selwyn said. “New York state agreed to this, including teachers being evaluated with the scores of these tests.”

North Country Public Radio reported that Cuomo said he wants half of a teacher evaluation based on the standardized test scores, also stating “‘chronically ineffective’ teachers should get the boot.”

Selwyn said the March 24 forum was held to serve as an education ground and to ensure community members and parents understood their right to “do what’s best for their kids.”

Parents have the right to choose to allow their children “opt out” of the test, Selwyn said.

With his research, Selwyn said that last year, 70,000 students’ parents opted out of the English/Language Arts (ELA) standardized test. This year, only tabulating 70 percent of school districts in New York State, 180,000 students have done the same for testing of the same standard. He also mentioned that usually more opt out of the math exam. The math test was due to be completed last week.

“I can see where it was supposed to go, what it was supposed to do and what they wanted to do,” PSUC junior Tasha Page said. “They wanted everyone to make sure every student is at the same level.”

Page is currently enrolled in the PSUC elementary education five-year program, with a history concentration. She said Common Core focuses more on English/language arts and mathematics. Teachers are forced to “leave out” history and science due to the fact that they are preparing their students for the tests they are required to give by the state.

“I try to incorporate history and science into the elementary classroom,” Page said. “(Common Core) doesn’t expose them to it, and it’s a shame because it used to be my favorite subject.”

Page believes that Common Core’s purpose is to prepare students going into high school at the same high standard. She also thinks there is another standard set for those high school students leaving their Alma Mater as they take their regents exams.

Selwyn said teachers don’t like this system because it doesn’t allow for what makes school “fun.” Standardized tests are the main focus in elementary and middle schools in New York state. He believes it has changed how the students operate, and Cuomo is making it more difficult for teachers by due to the use of “political maneuvers.”

Kala Lindtvit, studying at the same level and program as Page, said standardized testing puts stress on both the teachers and students. A 50 percent portion of teachers’ evaluations are based on the results of these tests because of Cuomo’s push for reforming the program.

“It is two weeks of long exams,” Lindtvit said. “In the spring, it is even harder because it is getting nice outside.”

From her experience in the classroom, Lindvit has seen students go from “spunky” to “exhausted” over the tests. She also said the elementary and middle school students develop anxiety because of them.

“The emphasis and entire focus is on passing this test, and that’s what teaching looks like, according to the state,” Selwyn said. “It is causing great harm saying that because some students don’t test well, and there is much evidence that the students that score high come from wealthy homes.”

“It’s great in theory but not in practice,” Page said.

Email Lisa Scivolette at lisa.scivolette@cardinalpointsonline.com

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