This bill is unnecessary and harmful. There is already a process in place for the commissioner of education to approve alternative assessments. The commissioner has in fact already approved a number of them. The process that is currently in place is rigorous -as it should be. Therefore, some alternative assessment proposals have not met the validity and reliability standards and have been rightly rejected. This bill is harmful because it would weaken the quality of the state's assessment system. Strong standards are as necessary to a quality testing program as they are to a quality education.
New York State's testing program, including the Regents' exams required for high-school graduation, is not onerous or excessive. It simply measures whether or not students have met the state's learning standards. It does not dictate how the learning standards are taught to students. Nor does it stifle creativity. New York's tests measure important skills and broad knowledge, rather than narrow topics that require rote memorization. There is no way of "teaching to" these tests without giving pupils a good education in the process. Without doubt, there are many fine school districts in New York State whose programs go far beyond what is covered in these tests. But their pupils can (and do) handle the state's tests in stride.
The schools themselves have made uniform testing a necessity. They have failed over many years to adopt and stick to high standards of their own. They have been turning out tens of thousands of high school "graduates" who lack even basic skills.
For instance in Monroe County-one hotbed of protests against state testing -20 percent of the high-school graduates who enter the local community college must immediately be placed in a "developmental" (remedial) English course. New York State needs uniform, minimum standards-because too many schools have had no standards.
Like them or not, we need tests to ensure that our kids are getting the education they deserve - and that we taxpayers are paying for. It is extremely important that the Legislature stand behind the standards, and the tests that back them up.