Several parents whose children boycotted the state tests this spring complained that their children are being held back and forced to go to summer school—despite their teachers’ recommendations that they be promoted to the next grade.
The parents held a press conference with City Councilman Robert Jackson on steps of the Department of Education headquarters at the Tweed Courthouse on Thursday to protest high-stakes testing and the city’s promotion policies.
This spring, New York State instituted more difficult standardized tests designed to conform to the Common Core Learning Standards. According to DOE policy, children who scored in the bottom 10 percent of test takers would be required to attend summer school unless their teachers prepared a portfolio demonstrating they had mastered the material.
Parents said the schools had difficulty preparing portfolios, and the DOE did not evaluate the portfolios adequately.
“Children [who opt out of testing] are perceived the same as children who received a low score,” even if they are high-performing students,” said Andrea Mata, a public school parent and member of the parent advocacy group Change the Stakes. “This is the second year in a row my child has not been promoted in June.”
Gretchen Mergenthaler said her son opted out of testing in 5th grade to protest what she saw as excessive test prep. Although his teachers put together a portfolio of his work, it soon became clear “the DOE has no clue what a portfolio is. I find it very sad that the teachers who know him and his work best are completely left out.”
Peter Nunez, whose 3rd grade son opted out of testing, stopped by the school to ask about the portfolio procedures. “They waited until just last week to tell us they don’t know how to do the portfolio. But two days ago, we were called in to tell us it was constructed and my son failed the portfolio, [even though he had good grades all years.] We went to the superintendent who said she never received the portfolio.”
DOE spokeswoman Erin Hughes from the DOE disputed the parents’ claims. “We have said all along that no individual student would be disadvantaged because the state made the tests harder. Summer school is important for students who are falling behind and need additional instructional time. This year, the Department has recommended that the students with the bottom 10 percent of scores go to summer school. These students likely scored at a level one on the state’s proficiency scale and will benefit from the extra summer learning.”