2014-05-08 / Opinion

Parents boycott NJ ASK test

YOUR TURN
DENISE TOUHEY
GUEST COLUMN

I t is test time for students across New Jersey. The NJ ASK is getting shelved at the end of the season because a new and improved national assessment — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — will be formally instituted in the 2014-15 school year.

The stakes are high for Pearson, the test publisher; legislators; lobbyists; parents; teachers; and, most importantly, children. It appears there is an ever-expanding marketplace in our public schools that is hinged upon high-stakes testing. Count us out!

We are refusing to allow our child to take the NJ ASK. It is our legal right to do so, and we are basing this decision on our serious concerns about what the test itself is doing to our child’s opportunity to receive a well-rounded, relevant education. We are also concerned about the intention of state policymakers to use the test in ways it was never intended to be used.

We must stand with the thousands of courageous parents, teachers and administrators across our nation who are boycotting high-stakes testing.

Recently, 33,000 students across New York refused to take the high-stakes tests. These concerns should be shared by every parent and community member who wants our children to be fully prepared for the much more complex and connected world in which they will live, and by those who care about our ability to flourish as a country moving forward.

In our children’s working lives, they will be expected to solve real-world problems, create and share meaningful work with the world, make sense of reams of unedited digital information, and regularly work with others half a world away using computers and mobile devices.

The NJ ASK tells us nothing about their ability or preparedness to do that. The paper-and-pencil tasks given on the test provide little useful information on what they have learned that goes beyond what we can see for ourselves on a daily basis and what their teachers relay to us through their own assessments in class.

We implicitly trust the caring professionals in our child’s classroom to provide this important, timely feedback as opposed to a single data point from one test, data that is reported out six months later without any context for areas where she may need help or remediation.

In short, these tests do not help our daughter learn, nor do they help her teachers teach her. In no way are we refusing the standardized tests because of our dissatisfaction with our local public schools, the teachers and administrators there, or our school board. We have simply had enough of national and state policies that we feel are hurting the educational opportunities for all children.

Having students take more tests does nothing to prepare them for future careers. Next year, students will be tested more than ever. To what end? It is not sound education policy to relegate a child to a number on a test and tracked through a system.

It is also important to know that test scores will be attributed to a teacher’s end-ofyear evaluation.

This new system of increased testing will further divide students, undermine the core of the American public school system and make some folks quite wealthy.

There are far more effective means of determining a student’s progress such as using performance-based assessments that illustrate understanding and learning vs. sorting children based on multiple choice questions. Until such an authentic system is in place, we will not relinquish our right to advocate for what we believe is best for our children.

We do not care what our daughter scores on a test that does not measure the things we hold most important in her education: the development of her interest in learning, her ability to use the many resources she has at her disposal to direct her own learning, and her ability to work with others to create real-world solutions to the problems we face.

We feel our tax dollars are better spent supporting our schools and our teachers who will help her reach those goals as well as the goals detailed by the state standards in ways that are more relevant, engaging and important than any amount of testing could ever accomplish.

Denise Touhey of Millstone Township is a mom of a three who currently teaches fifth grade at the American Boychoir School in Princeton. She previously served on her local school board and was an elementary school principal, a supervisor of curriculum and an elementary teacher in public schools.

Return to top