ParentVoicesNY Response to Chancellor Tisch’s 10/25 Comments

November 9, 2012

On October 25, in response to a question about parents opting their children out of field tests, Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, stated: “When you choose not to be part of something, you’re sending loads of messages about who can and who can’t opt out. And I always think that’s a dangerous precedent.”

ParentVoicesNY strongly objects to Chancellor Tisch’s comments and her unwarranted assertions that opting out of testing is dangerous and elitist. (Must we remind Ms. Tisch that she personally chose, as a parent, to opt out of the public school system and sent her children instead to private school, thus altogether avoiding state and city high-stakes testing policies?) According to the New York City Department of Education, ALL families have the right to opt their children out of state field tests.1 Unfortunately, many families are unaware of their rights, and do not even know that the State Education Department has volunteered our children to take field tests.

ParentVoicesNY advocates for parents to exercise their rights to opt out their children from state field testing because:

  • It is a symbolic statement of opposition to high-stakes testing policies in NYC and NYS, policies predicated on the misuse of test scores to hold children back a grade, prevent graduation, fire teachers and principals, and close schools;
  • Pearson — the for-profit testing company that makes the state tests — and the State Education Department do not notify parents or ask permission for our children to take field tests ;2
  • The field tests use the labor of our children to create a “norm referenced” bell curve scoring system, in which a certain percentage of test-takers are guaranteed to do poorly. Such a scoring system is unjust and unfair, and we do not want our children to play any part in its development;
  • High-stakes testing policies have harmed ALL children’s education through the narrowing of the curriculum and the focus on test prep to the exclusion of deep learning and critical thinking.

We also object to another public attack on parents who exercise their rights to opt their children out of field testing. New York Post guest columnist Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote in her October 22nd column “Who All the Testing is Meant to Help” that “High-stakes testing has been shown to offer clear benefits.” She goes on to cite studies by Martin Carnoy and Susanna Loeb, and Thomas Dee and Brian Jacob to back up this point. What Riley fails to acknowledge is that both of these studies (Martin & Carnoy’s in 2002, Dee & Jacob’s in 2010) examine NAEP test score data – exactly the kind of low-stakes testing that ParentVoicesNY supports – and do not make any conclusions at all about high-stakes testing.

And in fact, expert conclusions about the impact of high-stakes testing on student performance directly contradict Riley’s claims. In its 2011 report to Congress, the National Academy of Sciences committee commissioned by Congress to review the nature and implications of America’s test-based accountability systems concluded, “There are little to no positive effects of these systems overall on student learning and educational progress, and there is widespread teaching to the test and gaming of the systems that reflects a wasteful use of resources and leads to inaccurate or inflated measures of performance.”3

And while Riley claims that high-stakes testing works to raise the achievement of African-American and Latino students in particular, a closer look at states that embraced high-stakes testing early on shows quite the opposite. A recently released policy report from the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis (IUPRA) at The University of Texas at Austin notes that the perceived success of the test-based accountability measures in Texas – which provided the impetus for the national No Child Left Behind Act – did not take into account long-term outcomes that have actually indicated an overall lag in student performance. It points out that, “Considering that the ultimate goal of our schools is frequently framed as college and career readiness by the Legislature, it appears that our current system is not meeting those goals.”4

As a coalition of public-school parents dedicated to ensuring quality public-school education for all children within our diverse city, we will continue to fight against high-stakes testing and the misuse of standardized tests by policy-makers such as Chancellor Tisch.

For more information about ParentVoicesNY and about field testing, see our website:

1Quiz Making Parents Testy, Wall Street Journal (May 22, 2012)
2 New York State Field Tests: ‘Students Should Not Be Informed’ Of Connection To Standardized Exams, Huffington Post (May 28th, 2012)
3 Standardized tests with high stakes are bad for learning, studies show, (March 10, 2012)
4 Texas’ record on education: You saw it here first! (October 16, 2012)


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