Restore Education Funding (REF), a coalition of Nyack and Valley Cottage parents, is looking to tackle the issue of excessive testing.
REF will host an event about upcoming tests in June for students; the discussion is slated for Wednesday night from 7:30 p.m. to about 9 p.m. at Living Christ Church, located at 150 Piermont Avenue, Nyack.
“This event is the next step,” said Angela Bernhardt, of REF. “Many parents are now educated and concerned and we want to bring the community together to discuss and plan actions.”
REF has held a handful of events over the past several months to educate parents about what is going on in school districts—but Wednesday’s event is intended to deal more with action opposed to simply education. One plan of action the group will discuss at the meeting is possibly boycotting the test in June, which Bernhardt said is a field test, which is used primarily as research for future testing.
“This gives us some action we can take so parents feel more empowered,” she said. “It can help insert their voices into the debate.”
Nyack Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Montesano will be on hand to speak about the increased testing coming to schools for the 2012-2013 school year as part of state and federal mandates. Bernhardt said she and Walter Woodhouse, Nyack school district's assistant superintendent, went over all the tests coming in next school year.
According to their findings, students in kindergarten through second grade will see an increase from no tests to 20; third grade students will go up from two tests to 16; fourth-graders will take 17 tests opposed to the three they took this year; students in fifth grade will go up from three tests to 18; and sixth-graders will increase from three tests to 23. She added the list is a draft right now and is still being worked on.
Bernhardt said part of the issue she and other parents in REF have is that the tests are taking away classroom time when the children could be learning. The amount of time for tests will increase with the June field tests, as the students just spent a few days taking tests last month.
“Our children have been subjected to excessive amounts of standardized state testing this school year," she said. "The tests in April consumed six days of 90 minutes each, made longer by the inclusion of up to 30 percent of field test questions. It is unacceptable that even more valuable classroom time be allocated to the testing of test questions.”
The idea to boycott the tests came from another New York state group called Time Out From Testing that REF has talked to. Bernhardt said the group has been working with a few other organizations throughout the state to try and get their word heard up in Albany. REF has also had discussions with the Lower Hudson Valley Council of Superintendents about working together, and Bernhardt said they’ve had parents from Westchester and elsewhere attend meetings and get involved with the group.
“Reaching out to other groups has really helped us to connect this side of the river to the Westchester parents," she said. "We’re really looking forward to working together. The whole administrative staff is slammed with trying to roll out all these new testing products and what the state’s asking them to do in such a short amount of time is insane. So the more people we have working together to speak out against it, hopefully the better chance we have at getting our voice heard.”