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Teachers to boycott evaluation-linked tests at newcomer high school

Teachers at a Brooklyn high school for English language learners are refusing to give a new writing test required by the city for new teacher evaluations plans.

Students at International High School at Prospect Heights, mostly made up of recently arrived immigrants, had such a “traumatic and demoralizing experience” taking a similar test at the beginning of the year that teachers decided to boycott the spring version, which is currently being administered in high schools.

“Many students, after asking for help that teachers were not allowed to give, simply put their heads down for the duration,” the school staff say in a media advisory. “Some students even cried.”

They said they are protesting the one-size-fits-all approach of the tests, an essay-based assessment developed by the Department of Education, Teachers College, and Stanford University. At International, teachers said the tests were so far above the reading and writing levels of even the top students that the results said little about proficiency.

Similar criticism has been lodged by teachers of students with disabilities.

The assessment, called the Measures of Student Learning Performance Assessment, will count toward a teacher’s overall evaluation rating. Families of more than half of the school’s students plan to opt out from taking the test, according to the advisory.

The staff have already notified Chancellor Carmen Fariña, asking that she reconsider using the citywide performance assessments on English language learners.

Teachers will discuss their decision to boycott the tests at a press conference outside of the school tomorrow morning. Details about the event are below.

WHEN: Thursday, May 1, 2014, 7:45-8:20am,

WHERE: International High School at Prospect Heights, 883 Classon Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225

WHAT: Teachers will hold a press conference to announce their refusal to administer the NYC ELA Performance Assessment. 26 teachers and staff at Prospect Heights International High School are refusing to administer a new assessment that is part of the new teacher evaluation system pushed by Bloomberg’s DOE and the UFT last spring. 50% of parents have opted their children out of the test. The high school serves almost exclusively recently arrived English Language Learners.

WHY: The test was constructed and formatted without any thought for the 14% of New York City students for whom English is not their first language. The level of English used in the pre-test administered in the Fall was so far above the level of our beginner ELLs that it provided little to no information about our students’ language proficiency or the level of their academic skills.

Furthermore, the test was a traumatic and demoralizing experience for students. Many students, after asking for help that teachers were not allowed to give, simply put their heads down for the duration. Some students even cried.

Teachers at Prospect Heights are drawing a line with this test. Standardized, high stakes test dominate our schools, distort our curriculum and make our students feel like failures. This test serves no purpose for the students, and ultimately only hurts them.

26 Teachers have signed a letter to Chancellor Farina declaring that they will not give the exam. The letter expresses gratitude for Farina’s immediate turn around of the DOE’s attitude toward teachers, and asks that the Chancellor reconsider the use of the NYC ELA Performance Assessment with English Language Learners.

WHO: Teachers and support staff from the International High School at Prospect Heights.

RSVP: This event is open to press and coverage is welcome.

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