The entire faculty at a New York City public school is taking a stand against standardized testing.
The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit education news outlet, on Wednesday published an op-ed written by the entire faculty at P.S. 167 in Queens, decrying standardized testing's impact on their school. The teachers wrote that the tests have made students incredibly stressed and have detracted from students’ educational experiences:
When they enter our school each fall, our sixth-graders write about their hopes and fears for middle school. This year, 35 percent said their greatest fear was failing the state tests. At one of the most socially difficult times of their lives, over a third of our children have more anxiety about standardized tests than any other issue.
It makes sense that students at the school -– which serves grades 6 through 10 –- would be stressed about standardized testing, because they get tested a lot. According to the letter, the school’s sixth graders will be required to participate in 18 days of testing during the next six weeks. The testing includes “3 days of state English tests, 3 days of state math tests, 4 days of new city English and math benchmark tests, and 8 days of new English, math, social studies and science city tests to evaluate teacher performance,” read the letter.
The faculty members wrote that they don't oppose testing on principle, and don't take a unified stand on whether students should opt out of tests. However, they recommended that officials allocate resources toward developing other ways of assessing educational quality.
Eric Shieh, a teacher at the school, told The Huffington Post he and fellow teachers composed the letter at the beginning of the year. Since it was published in The Hechinger Report, the letter has appeared elsewhere, including The Washington Post.
“We began asking ourselves as a staff what we could do to get our voices heard,” said Shieh in a telephone interview. “Every week for the past month, 15 to 25 members of the staff would come to writing sessions when they could and write drafts.”
Shieh said teachers at P.S. 167 try to avoid “teaching to the test” in favor of keeping with a broad-based curriculum that encourages intellectual curiosity.
“We always ask ourselves [if our scores] would be higher if we taught to the test, and then we ask ourselves again if we are going to [teach to the test], and the answer is always no,” said Shieh.
The sentiment expressed by the school’s faculty represents a growing resistance to standardized testing in New York state. A recent Associated Press article cited estimates of more than 28,000 students in grades 3 through 8 opting out of state exams this year. While that's more than double the number of students who opted out last year, it is still only a small slice of the state’s 1.2 million students in those grades.