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English Language Arts Tests Spark Controversy Among Parents

HOST INTRO: New York City public school students spent days last week taking the statewide English Language Arts, or ELA, assessment test. This morning, just before class, parents and

teachers in over thirty Manhattan elementary schools rallied against the tests saying that they were unfair and unnecessary. Marie Shabaya reports.



It’s just after 8:30 am in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and today’s morning run is a little different for everyone at the William T. Harris School, also known as PS 11. Parents made sure that the kids made it to school on time and then the posters came out and the unhappy parents began to protest. One said: We will not Rest until we see the test. And another said: Take Away the ELA. The ELA test is part of the state’s controversial assessment standards. Like many parents who supported the protests this morning, Gigi Karabinakis says the tests are useless.

KARABINAKIS: It’s just completely unreliable, it serves absolutely no purpose. Linked to this are these ridiculous stakes surrounding it. Our children’s educational future depends upon the results of these flawed tests…

It’s the second year that the test is being taken and its part of a nationwide curriculum known as Common Core. And they are difficult—with foreign concepts and a lot of prep required from students as young as third grade. Jenny Shaffer Stevens’ began drumming support against the ELA with other parents several months ago. She has two children are at PS11. She wants to believe that Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Education Chancellor Carmen Farina have the children’s best intentions at heart.

STEVENS: Obviously people are impatient to have those goals met in terms of reducing the emphasis on the test…

They may be impatient but the Mayor has just passed the 100 day mark in office and education reform was a top priority during his campaign. But in the last three months de Blasio has had

a fair share of education related crises. But he has had some success like the expansion of universal pre-K in the city. PS11 Mom Jenny Shaffer Stevens thinks that the test controversy isn’t really de Blasio’s problem and that the solution lies in the state capital.

STEVENS: He inherited a testing situation, he didn’t begin this climate. He inherited it. A lot of it is somewhat out of his hands, a lot of what is going on is that we need much more help from Albany.

However, Robin Broche who is also part of PS11’s school leadership team says that de Blasio has definitely failed parents in this testing debacle.

BROCHE: These tests are mandated by the state and de Blasio has shown that he has a little trouble navigating the politics of dealing with our statewide officials.

For Gigi Karabinakis and many other the parents at PS 11 this morning, de Blasio’s education agenda may be too optimistic.

KARABINAKIS: Thus far, the words spoken by Chancellor Farina and de Blasio seem promising. However, this situation runs so deep. I honestly don’t know if enough can be done…if it’s in their capacity.

The protests today happened in District 2 which has some of the city’s best performing schools when it comes to standardised testing.

Marie Shabaya, Columbia Radio News.


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