Standardized Testing Petition: 1,100 New York College Professors Sign Document Opposing Over-Reliance On High-Stakes Exams

More than 1,100 college professors across New York state are rallying against excessive, high-stakes K-12 standardized testing, adding their names to a petition that will be sent to the Board of Regents.

Academics claim that such exams have failed to improve schools over the last 10 years, and oppose the state’s new teacher evaluation law that requires 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on how much his or her students improve on the tests.

The petition comes as New York City parents and students protested earlier this month the emphasis on standardized exams, amid a growing national movement against the tests. They gathered outside Pearson Education's headquarters to fight excessive testing and the fact that teachers have almost been forced into "teaching to the test."

According to The Post-Standard, Syracuse University Dean of Education Douglas Biklen says there has been no research to validate using standardized tests to evaluate teachers, adding that the policy will encourage teachers to avoid students who tend to not perform well on these exams.

“Principals and teachers, I predict, will be afraid to welcome students with disabilities, students who are English language learners, who have emotional difficulties, who come to school late in the year or who have a history of low performance in their classrooms,” Biklen said.

A recent study by the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Counsel for Teacher Quality also concluded that teachers are often unprepared use testing data to improve student learning.

In their letter, the professors referenced the adverse effect high-stakes testing has on widening racial/ethnic gaps, as evidenced by numerous studies. They also pointed out that high numbers of the city’s public school graduates ultimately fail the City University of New York entry tests and are then required to take remedial courses.

Speaking at a news conference along with other panel members at New York Civil Liberties Union headquarters, Diane Ravitch, an education professor at NYU and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that “high-stakes testing -- and educators know this -- is bad for children, bad for teachers, bad for schools.

We’re now using tests as a one-size-fits-all measure for everything -- to close schools, fire teachers, decide which kids will be held back and which will be promoted,” she added.

As reported by The Post-Standard, panelists say the Regents and the state Education Department have not been willing to listen to opponents of their testing policies. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, is hopeful that the petition and news conference will encourage the public to join in a wider discussion of the issue.