TONAWANDA, NY (WIVB) - Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, every student in Grades 3 through 8 across New York State is required to take and pass tougher ELA and Math assessments.
But are these tests an accurate measure of performance?
A growing number of parents say, 'no.' They made waves last spring by starting an 'opt-out' movement, and refusing to have their children take the tests.
Now some lawmakers are even joining the crusade for reform.
A bill currently in the State Senate, sponsored by Mark Grisanti, would stop the transfer of students' and parents' personal data to the State Education Department.
Senators Tim Kennedy, George Maziarz and Assemblyman Sean Ryan, along with the Partnership for Smarter Schools, are sponsoring a "Summit for Smarter Schools" in Buffalo this Wednesday, October 2, at Kleinhans Music Hall.
Eric Mihelbergel speaks for the parents who believe New York State's new, more rigorous standardized ELA and Math tests are doing students and teachers more harm than good.
Mihelbergel is one of nine parent activists from across the state who founded NYS Allies for Public Education. Recently, he and other parents sent Ken-Ton's test score sheets back to NYSED in Albany, in protest.
"We're hoping to send the message that these tests are not appropriate for our children. We don't want our children taking these tests, and we want the New York State Education Department to understand that," says Mihelbergel.
The Summit for Smarter Schools is open to the public. Researchers from a number of colleges will present their studies on standardized tests, examine what effects they are having in the classroom and discuss what role these assessments should play in public education.
"It's a research-based program to teach parents, educators, board members, administrators what's going on in education today," explains Mihelbergel. "That's... at this moment, one of the biggest issues that we're facing with our children. They take so many tests in schools, and they're high-stakes tests."
...Meaning, test scores are used to determine whether teachers are effective, whether schools are effective, even if they'll receive state aid.
"You take a teacher and you say, 'You're going to be graded, teacher, on ELA and Math tests," says Mihelbergel. "Well then, what's the incentive for the teacher? The incentive is for them to teach to the ELA and the Math test. Philosophy, history, building a student's confidence... all these other things that we want our children to learn are no longer the focus."
Scores dropped across the board this year. Only about 31 percent of students statewide earned passing marks.
"We're not against our kids taking assessments. We want them to be challenged, we want them to have tests," Mihelbergel notes. "What we're against is the high-stakes nature of these tests."
A few tickets for the summit are still available, and can be ordered by emailing the Kleinhans box office at Boxoffice@bpo.org.
The event is Wednesday, October 2 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.
Right around 5 a.m. Thursday, a University at Buffalo international student’s life came to a halting end.
A federal judge sentenced 47-year-old Filippo Inglima of Wheatfield to 10 years behind bars for taking part in an international drug ring.
Robert Mooney, who was driving drunk when he caused a crash that killed his best friend, was sentenced on Wednesday to one- to three-years in prison.
The New York comptroller reports that the state's public authorities pay more than $7 billion annually to more than 104,000 employees.
If you are looking for work, you may want to head out to the Seneca Niagara Casino on Thursday. The events center is hosting a job fair until 6 p.m.
A man who is accused of violently shaking his girlfriend’s baby boy appeared for a felony hearing in Buffalo City Court, Thursday morning.