Saranac Lake parents say no to NYS standardized tests

Hello! It’s the last full day of our spring fundraiser, so, quick plug, if you haven’t given yet you can take care of it right now, online. We’re having lots of groovy drawings as well — more on those here.

So, you may have noticed that there’s been a lot of talk lately about standardized testing in education (unless, of course, you live beneath a rock — a rock underneath which there are no public schools.) Here’s a story from last year that sums up how some feel about the situation nicely. In Saranac Lake, some parents have taken the matter into their own hands, and are (or their kids are) opting out of the state standardized tests that begin Tuesday. At least 25 students between third and eighth grade won’t take the six days of English and math tests.

One local parent, Vanessa Houghtlin of Saranac Lake, told the paper why her two kids won’t be taking the tests:

We feel there’s an over-reliance on state testing in the schools that’s damaging the quality of the eduction there, demoralizing a lot of the teachers and children, and undermining the high-level teaching and learning we think are important for children and our whole culture.

There’s a lot more in the article on how this opting out works, what parents’ objections are, and what they’re hoping to accomplish. The Saranac Lake school board also unanimously passed a resolution against New York’s increased emphasis on standardized testing at its meeting Wednesday night, saying it has caused

Considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate.

School districts around the state and the country have passed similar resolutions, the article said. Both parents and the school board say they’re hoping the state will reconsider its testing policies.



Tags: , , ,

25 Comments on “Saranac Lake parents say no to NYS standardized tests”

  1. Paul says:

    I can see where they are coming from but is this a good message for kids – if you don’t like the rule just don’t follow it? Try harder to get the rule changed, don’t use your kids as a protest tool?

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  2. TomL says:

    Civil disobedience has a long and glorious American history – going back before HD Thoreau was jailed for not paying his poll tax. This appears to be justifiable civil disobedience against the continuing loss of local community control of local schools.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  3. Peter Hahn says:

    Paul -There is no rule they have to follow the rule. The big problem they (the school) mention is that these are the high achieving students. If they dont take the test, the district will look worse and parents considering moving to Saranac Lake might think twice about putting their kids in the schools.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  4. The Original Larry says:

    Kudos to those people for resisting a bureaucracy gone wild.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  5. mervel says:

    What the school needs to do is have ten ringers take the test and have everyone else boycott it, the average scores would be through the roof and it would probably win some award for a high performing school.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  6. mervel says:

    Peter is right however, we say we don’t like testing, yet we study the heck out them when it comes to our own kids.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  7. Gary says:

    There are too many problems associated with this testing to mention. I would simply like to thank these parents for standing up to something they disagree with. I hope the State Ed Dept is listening.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  8. JDM says:

    Report card for NYS Public Education System

    Testing system – F
    Ability to work with others – F
    Leadership – F
    Communication – F
    Administration – F

    I can see where parents aren’t too keen on these tests. The whole system seems to be failing.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  9. Peter Hahn says:

    JDM – my kids went through the NYS Public Education System. Im not sure what you are referring to.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  10. V. Burnett says:

    Peer – how long ago did your kids go through the system? It has spiraled down dramatically in the last ten years.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  11. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Interesting that the regular conservatives on here are so against testing. I shouldn’t bring up W Bush since he was behind expansion of educational testing and by bringing him up I may poison the discussion when I agree that there is a huge over reliance on testing, to the detriment of the educational process.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  12. V. Burnett says:

    Gah – sorry – my keyboard is sticky. I meant to address Peter. :)

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Peter Hahn says:

    My kids went all the way through, including one who went to SUNY medical school. The other one graduated from SUNY Geneseo at about the same time – three years ago, and is now a computer scientist working in the financial services industry. I dont think all the the testing is a good idea – it takes away from time spent actually educating kids. On the other hand “test taking” is a useful skill.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  14. Mervel says:

    The state Ed is NOT listening to 25 Kids. The net results will just be that sl is just viewed as a worse school if this impacts their total average. Less competitive school, so when your kids are competing with all of those kids down in westchester they will be at a disadvantage.

    Popular. Like/Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  15. Michael Greer says:

    It would be of great service to students and taxpayers alike if the school district could just say no to this testing, but the state Education dept. would cut funding or something, and the district would be punished for trying to do their jobs better.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  16. Peter Hahn says:

    Mervel – the only good thing in this is a values lesson. The kids not taking the tests (presumably with their parents blessing) are getting a lesson in thinking independently and standing up for principle. The other side works as well. Other kids might get the lesson from their parents (e.g. Paul) that their duty is to do whats right and follow the rules – thats what makes a civilized society function etc.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  17. Pete Klein says:

    Parents who won’t let their kids take tests are doing them a lifelong disservice.
    The idea is about as stupid as refusing to pay taxes and actually not paying taxes.
    I do agree there is too much testing and too much teaching to the test.
    But boycotting testing is not the way to go.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. mervel says:

    Yeah Peter, on concept I am against the test obsession. We do need testing, we have always had testing (Iowa basics etc), I think the problem is the obsession of thinking that by testing 4th graders you are really going to find something out.

    On the other hand how do we know that the school is doing their job? If we have children who progress into high school who literally can’t read, it would have been nice to know that before 10th or 11th grade. Good schools would know that but some schools without testing would just pass these guys to the next grade.

    From a parent perspective I do want my kids to know how to take and do well on a standardized test, they are going to take the SAT’s for college anyway if they go to graduate school they will be taking the GMAT or the LSAT or the MCAT or whatever the specialty is. Out society is already somewhat structured around standardized tests. So at some level part of primary education should be getting used to taking them.

    In this case in SL I honestly don’t think it is any big deal and indeed it may have taught the kids something about thinking for themselves, which is a good thing.

    We have always told our kids not to worry at all about these tests as they are not measuring them they are measuring the school. I have never cared what they scored on those things as long as their grades have been good.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  19. Marvin B says:

    ??????? Test taking is a useful skill???????????? for what? TAKING more TESTS!!!!!!!!!! STOP THE INSANITY!

    While “your” kids may have teaken the tests in previous years and done fine…… this is a whole new era of testing that is really NOT about your kid. IT is about politics and corporate greed!

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  20. Paul says:

    I think we should all stop getting so worked up about this. Tests take a day or two, big deal. I don’t necessarily think that they make much sense but I don’t see the big harm either. I do see a problem when we get all worked up and the kids worry too much about the tests (like one of my kids right now). Then when you have some kids do the protest thing and all the other kids see it then it makes the problem even worse.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. Paul says:

    Aren’t the Regents exams “state tests” that have been around forever? If you look at those tests in math and science they are basically just to make sure the kids have gotten the basics. If you have done a good job teaching the class those things are a snap.

    Popular. Like/Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  22. newt says:

    I remember kids at some of my former schools telling me about a colleague who had really high rates of students passing his Regents Exams, and was considered a good, and inspiring, teacher. But in non-Regents classes (in courses I think were important), he frequently showed school game tapes or war movies instead of teaching. Clearly, standardized test provide a useful measurement and encourage needed efforts in many cases.

    I also remember hearing elementary teachers where I used to teach talking about having to push nothing but the the state test prep on 4th and 5th graders, and the kids becoming anxious, depressed, and in some cases crying, as a result.

    In my day I felt I could teach to the test and still teach what I thought was important. Not sure about now. It seems to have gotten worse.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  23. Paul says:

    What do they do in countries where they blow us out of the water? I think that many places track kids very early based on where they think they are most likely to succeed, a very different system that we have. But they also make sure that kids are prepared in the basics, which in many counties is far more advanced than our basics. If we want to compete the first thing may be to have our kids start spending a lot more time in school, then taking time out for a few tests would not be such a burden.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  24. mervel says:


    Yes stop the insanity I agree.

    But if your kid wants to be a doctor, a lawyer or hold an advanced degree, they better know how to take and do well on standardized tests. That is not going to change no matter how much we stomp or feet.

    However you do have a point this is a HUGE market and it is a market that is selling to our public institutions. So indeed part of this push is driven by the industry.

    Not all though.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  25. mervel says:


    I think in those countries they focus on the basics but they don’t start too early, this frenzy in this country to obsess about the progress of very young kids is not what is being done in other educationally successful countries.

    It also seems like we continually flop from one new thing to another, a continual churning of “new” ways to teach, I don’t think this is happening in other countries, but I don’t know why we just don’t adopt those methods that are working in Japan or Germany or Finland etc,? We do we feel this need to re-invent something?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

Comments are closed.