Weeks of awareness-raising by groups alarmed by an extra round of state tests this year culminated in a mass protest against the test-maker’s Midtown headquarters today.
The parents and children who attended the rally came from some of the 61 elementary and middle schools where anti-testing activists said families were boycotting “field tests” from Pearson, which began on Tuesday.
Over 400 parents and children protested Pearson’s field tests, which are intended to help design future tests.The company has a $32 million state contract to produce tests.
Parents at the protest — many from the Upper West Side, Brownstone Brooklyn, and Lower Manhattan — said they are fed up with the number of tests that their children have to take. Parent organizations such as Change the Stakes, Time Out From Testing, and Parent Voices New York helped build support against the field tests.
“We organized classroom by classroom, school by school,” said Michael Ravitch, a parent from P.S. 321 in Brooklyn. “Many of these parents haven’t been politically involved before but everyone shares this feeling and needed an outlet to express their disgust for these useless and meaningless tests that are eating up the resources of these schools and wasting our children’s time.”
“I thought maybe there’d be 50 people here,” said Ravitch, who is the son of vocal education activist, Diane Ravitch. “I hope that this is just the beginning.”
“Tests had their time and place for the last couple of decades but they’re absolutely taking over teaching and learning, and it just seems crazy,” said Dohra Ahmad, a parent at P.S. 261, which rallied against standardized testing in May. The school principal, Zipporiah Mills, supported the boycott by refusing to administer Pearson’s test this week.
Children who boycott the field test will not be punished but those that sit out of state tests will be assessed by their class work, which could be more subjective.
Tiny voices also echoed out the rally’s slogans as hundreds of children joined in the colorful protest, many carrying pineapple signs, in alluded to a problematic test questions that earned Pearson ridicule this spring.
“It’s not fair that my teacher had to take away so much time from teaching us just to give us these tests and grade them,” said Max Servetar, a sixth grade student at M.S. 54, who didn’t take the field test that his class was scheduled to take yesterday.
“It certainly seemed like they had plenty of opportunity to field test the kids without putting them through another session of testing, “added Beth Servetar, Max’s mother, who is the PTA vice-president at P.S. 87.
The protest didn’t include teachers or principals, according to Jane Hirschmann, who co-chairs Time Out From Testing.
“We really made this a parent led movement because parents never have a voice, and we thought it was time,” said Hirschmann. “In two short weeks, we had to get the word out and we were able to do it. The more parents hear about it, the more outraged they become because our kids are totally over tested.”
One mother, Jessica Dineen, said she noticed that more parents are becoming involved with high-stakes protests.
“What we’re really happy about is that there seems to be a ground swell this year,” added Dineen, whose children attend Brooklyn New School. “Parents with kids in kindergarten are activating on this issue. The time to do it would be now.”