Prospect Heights

Teachers at International HS boycott mandatory exam

Refused to administer test to students

May 2, 2014 By Madeleine Cummings For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A group of teachers at the International High School at Prospect Heights refused to administer a city-mandated writing test they say is unsuitable for their students, many of whom are recent immigrants learning English.

The test, called the Measures of English Language Arts Performance Assessment, is essay-based and aligned to Common Core standards. Students took a similar test in the fall and were scheduled to take a spring version on Thursday. The results, used by the city to measure student progress, are to be used as one part of teachers’ new mandatory evaluation plan.

Thirty teachers and staff at the school have signed their names to a letter that lists objections to the test and asks schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña to allow teacher-created assessments as a replacement.

Teachers claimed the students, many of whom are new to the country and hail from countries with poor education systems, struggled with the fall test format and difficulty level of the readings.

They also said that the test was not created with English language learners in mind, lacking translations and instructions for reading aloud that their students are used to seeing on other tests.

Put simply, the teachers say the test was too hard, the vast majority of students received zero points, and the whole experience was “traumatic” for everyone involved.

“Some of them put their heads down, some of them cried, some of them threw papers,” recalled Rosie Frascella, a 12th grade English teacher at the school.

“Tests like this lower their self-esteem. They create a bad pattern of testing experiences. And then every time they get in front of a test, they tell themselves, ‘I can’t, I’m stupid. I can’t do it.’ That’s not the environment we want for our kids.”

The group does not speak on behalf of all staff at the school. In fact, the test was administered as planned to some students on Thursday.

“Our administration gave the test to a very small group of students this afternoon,” wrote Emily Giles, a ninth and 10th grade science teacher, in an email. “As soon as each student finished, she was able to come right back to class rather than sit for the duration.”

At a press conference Thursday morning, teachers refused to answer questions about school administrators’ stance on the tests. Principal Nedda De Castro was not available for comment on Thursday.

Fifty percent of parents already opted their children out of the test, which does not influence students’ grades.

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