TEST TAKING AND MONEY MAKING!
By NYS Assemblyman Charles BarronApril 6, 2015
I voted no for the so-called education reforms portion of the $141.6 billion New York State budget for two reasons. Firstly, these were not “education reforms”, they were “vindictive measures” proposed by a small minded bullying Governor Andrew Cuomo, who wanted to punish the unions and their teachers for not endorsing him for Governor. The Governor knows nothing about education. While I’m focusing on education, neither does the Mayor know anything about education; end mayoral control now! Secondly, these so-called reforms/vindictive measures have nothing to do with the budget and they include a teacher evaluation matrix scheme that will measure teacher performance and student performance by these oppressive high stakes standardized tests.
Our children are forced to take tests so that corporations can make money. In this capitalist economy human greed is prioritized over human need. Profit over people! Nowhere is this contradiction more glaring then in the abusive use of high stakes standardized testing imposed upon our struggling students and their families. Someone should be arrested for educational malpractice and child abuse. “Test taking for money making”, especially against our most vulnerable human beings, our children, should be a crime against humanity. I’ve received letters at my office from parents complaining about the tremendous amount of stress, anxiety and illness these high stakes standardized tests have caused their children and their families. Children have experienced headaches, vomiting, nervousness, uncontrollable urination etc. All of this for what? So that test manufacturing companies can make mega profits.
Let’s put a spotlight on one of these companies, the Pearson Education Company. Pearson Inc. is a British owned education publishing and assessment corporation. Pearson Education Company was rebranded to Pearson Inc. in 2011 and split into an international and a North American division. Pearson International is headquartered in London and Pearson North America is headquartered in New York City. Though Pearson Inc. generates approximately 60% of its sales in North America, they operate in more than 70 countries around the world.
In 2010 Pearson Inc. agreed to a 5 year $32 million contract with the New York State Education Department to design tests for students in grades 4 through 8. The spring of 2012 tests that Pearson designed for the New York State Education Department were found to contain over 30 errors causing major controversy and calls for the New York State Education Department to terminate Pearson’s contract. Those calls were ignored and Pearson Inc. is still under contract with the New York State Education Department to design tests for our students. Thankfully, the contract ends in 2015, this year. Why did the New York State Education Department continue a contract with such an incompetent test designing profit prioritizing education company? Our children, their families, teachers and education overall has suffered. Gail Collins, an op-ed columnist for the NY Times, in an article titled “A Very Pricey Pineapple”, referring to one of the over 30 errors by Pearson’s test questions, stated that, “We have turned school testing into a huge corporate profit center, led by Pearson.”
I say don’t mend high stakes standardized testing, end it! Students have more ways to learn than we know how to teach. Student performance should be evaluated by a variety of measures including, independent projects, collaborative projects, ongoing classroom assessments, teacher assessments, class participation and student portfolios. Teachers should be evaluated similarly, by a variety of measures. Local testing and classroom testing is sufficient. We do not need high stakes standardized testing. By the way, parents have the right to not subject their children to these abusive high stakes standardized tests by exercising their ability to opt-out, not take these tests. Thousands of parents across the state are presently exercising that right. Education should be for liberation and not for profit making corporations!!!