Teacher union ad campaign targets tests


The largest teachers union in the state has rolled out a $250,000 advertising campaign opposing the new and tougher standardized test tied to the Common Core Standards, urging parents to join with them in fighting the 10-test testing program.

The New York State United Teachers, which represents more than 600,000 current and retired teachers says in its full-page ads, which appeared on Friday in many daily newspapers, including the New York Times and Newsday, that the testing program should be used to gauge New York’s progress in rolling out rigorous new national learning standards, but not as a measure of teacher effectiveness or against students.

“No experienced teacher would test students on material before it’s been taught,” the advertisement said. “Yet that’s just the scenario the state has created in its rush to roll out new standardized tests. Two-thirds of the teachers surveyed statewide say their students lack books and materials aligned with the new Common Core Standards. As recently as last month, the state was still rolling out the materials and instructions on Common Core, while expecting the students to have mastered the curriculum by April.”

With scores expected to plummet, New York State United Teachers wants parents to tell the state not to use them in teacher evaluations this year or to hold back students.

The state uses the annual English language arts and math tests for grades third through eighth to assess students, schools and districts. This year, the tests are also to figure in to state-required performance evaluations that will rate teachers and principals as either highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective.

The new curriculum, meant to better prepare students for college and jobs, includes more complex reading problems that require students to analyze informational texts and write evidence-based responses. The math challenges students not only to solve real-world problems but to first decide which formulas and tools to use.

A March memo from Ken Slentz, a deputy education commissioner, advised superintendents to take into account that student progress was being measured against more rigorous standards when making employment decisions. He said teachers would have a fair chance to do well, however, because they will be compared based on similar measures.

Just last month, Oceanside School Superintendent Herb Brown warned parents and board of education members that student test scores on the coming tests will be much lower than those achieved in the past.

NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi said teachers and their students have not been equally prepared for the tests, with some districts moving more enthusiastically than others toward implementation of the new standards. In a survey of 1,600 teachers earlier this year, 65 percent said their students lacked access to textbooks and materials aligned to the standards, he said.

“To count this testing for any kind of high stakes, it defies logic and is unethical,” Iannuzzi told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

He said teachers have been writing letters by the thousands to state education leaders for the past month spelling out the test-related stresses in their classrooms.

The $250,000 ad campaign was launched to bolster the effort with the hope of action by the Education Department, Gov. Andrew Cuomo or the Legislature, he said.

“I felt we had an obligation to share the reality with parents,” Iannuzzi said.

I n a news release, Education Commissioner John King acknowledged the calls to delay aligning assessments to the higher standards. “Any major change initiative comes with anxiety and challenges,” King said.

But he said students did not have time to wait to be held accountable for standards designed to improve their futures.

“Only about 35 percent of our students graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary to be called college- and career ready,” he said. “That’s why the (Board of) Regents moved forward so decisively ... They understand that going slow means denying thousands of students the opportunity to be