States Like New York Are Using High-Quality Tests. For Teachers and Parents, That’s a Good Thing

In a piece published by Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss, New York teacher Katie Lapham alleges that the state’s student assessments are “developmentally inappropriate, confusing and tricky.” Despite tests being shortened, Lapham argues they are too long and contain content that is too high-level for third graders. “I’m beyond fed-up that I have to continue to administer these assessments.”

Lapham’s criticism ignores that New York officials made significant changes to improve the state’s tests, including: shortening both the math and English language arts portions of the exams, having more than 150 teachers from across the state review and critique the tests, giving students unlimited time to complete them, and ensuring the results will not be used in teacher evaluations for several years.

That some activists still find fault with good tests like New York’s, suggests they will stop at nothing short of removing tests altogether—which would do a huge disservice to students, parents and teachers. “The opt-out crowd won’t quit until all tests are meaningless,” the New York Post editorialized this month. “Yearly assessments are vital in measuring learning. They provide critical feedback about students, teachers and schools.”

The New York Daily News was more direct in its advice. “Take the damn tests,” the editorial board wrote. “New York has done everything imaginable to ease the supposedly unmanageable stress piled on Janies and Johnnies throughout the state. Everything imaginable, short of running all exams through the shredder.”

Are New York’s tests perfect? No—no test is. But they are a big improvement over the bygone bubble tests students took before, and they provide families and educators valuable insight into how well students are developing the skills and knowledge they need to succeed when they reach college or the workforce.

In fact, the Honesty Gap analysis found New York is now measuring to levels that exceed proficiency targets of NAEP—ensuring that when met students are fully prepared to move on to higher level material.

Mike Petrilli put it well in the opinion pages of USA Today: “Parents should resist the siren song of those who want to use this moment of truth to attack the Common Core or the associated tests. They may not be perfect, but they are finally giving parents, educators and taxpayers an honest assessment of how our students are doing.”