Just How Many Tests are NYC Students Taking?

This week’s blog post is guest-written for PASSNYC by Brooklyn based freelance writer Milford Prewitt.

Just one week after being named New York State's top school administrator, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Betty Rosa railed against the very types of tests her agency is charged with overseeing.

"If I was a parent and not on the Board of Regents, I would opt out at this time," said the highly respected, career-long New York City educator. Her words captured the frustration of parents throughout the state, city and increasingly, the nation, who complain that their children are taking too many mandatory assessment tests during the school year.

Throughout the nation and especially in New York, parents are having their students opt-out of mandatory, standardized tests, complaining that there are too many exams and that the results are really used to judge and evaluate teachers and schools, not student performance or promotion.

A benchmark study from the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) released last October gives credence to parent and teacher suspicions that constant testing is not serving students or teachers well.

The study found that on average 20-to-25 hours of the academic year is spent preparing for, drilling on and taking a mandatory test, third-through-twelfth grades.

One of the more interesting findings of the CGCS study is that eighth and tenth graders not only spend the most amount of time on exams – about eight-to-nine hours a school year – but they also take a higher proportion of“high stakes” tests that can determine entry to gifted student programs, acceptance in elite high schools and specialized arts curricula, and even preferred college choices.

On average, the CGCS estimated that students will take a mandatory assessment exam about 112.3 times during their K-12 grade school lives.

The study also suggested that there is little evidence that the steady volume of testing improves student academic performance, advances college preparation or increases job prospects after high school.

Based in Washington, D.C., the CGCS is a 60-year-old nonprofit research and development organization whose membership consists of the 70 largest school systems in the nation, including New York City’s. About 7.2 million students are enrolled in a CGCS school district, with Hispanics accounting for 40 percent of the total.

While recognizing how contentious testing has become throughout the nation, the CGCS said its mission was purely to provide some "dispassionate evidence" in the debate and provide a baseline for further research.