Chris unveils plan to reduce the amount of time students spend taking and preparing for standardized tests

Standing outside P.S. 3 in Manhattan, Christine Quinn today unveiled her plan to reduce the amount of time New York City Public School students spend taking and preparing for standardized tests. To accomplish this, Quinn discussed her proposals which include revising the school progress report methodology to do away with single letter grades, restricting high stakes testing in grades K-2, and requiring that funding allocated for arts education is used exclusively for the arts. Quinn was joined by Denise Collins, a parent of a student at P.S. 3, a highly sought after elementary school that receives poor grades from the Department of Education because it does not focus on high stakes tests as much as other schools. Quinn cited how this overemphasis on high stakes tests has forced principals to use arts education funding for other resources related specifically to test-prep.

“High-stakes tests have distorted the traditional effectiveness of a comprehensive K-12 education,” said Quinn. “By moving beyond this narrow-minded approach we can ensure that schools serve the needs of all students and provide the academic, physical and emotional support that all students need to succeed. Let’s end the culture of teaching to the test and arm parents with accurate data so they can better engage in their children’s education.”

 Specifically, Quinn’s plan will: 

Revise School Progress Report Methodology and Do Away with Single Letter Grades

Quinn noted how currently, 85% of a school's progress report score is based on test results, which only reinforces to schools, teachers, students, and families that test results are paramount in education. As mayor, Quinn will continue to issue school progress reports because she believe they are crucial for families to have as much information and transparency as possible about their children’s education, but will do away with giving schools an overly simplified single letter grade. Instead, she will create a school report that makes clear how a school is doing in more of the areas that contribute to school quality, including art and physical education, richness of curriculum, school culture and parent involvement.

Additionally, instead of using progress report grades in making school closure decisions, Quinn will create a red alert system for struggling schools, looking at early indicators like chronic long-term absences and graduation rates, and identify schools that need help well before they’re slated to close.  Then, she will provide them with intensive support to improve, so every student in every neighborhood has access to a high-quality school.

Require Project ARTS Funding be Used for Arts

Recognizing the significance of arts education in schools, Quinn also outlined her plan to require Project ARTS funding be used exclusively for arts education. This was the case up until 2007, when the funding was folded into a school’s overall budget allowing principals to spend the money on other subject areas. Naturally, given the emphasis on high stakes tests there has been a drastic reduction in arts programming throughout the city.  The Center for Arts Education estimates that only 8 percent of New York City elementary schools offer the four arts forms required by state law – visual arts, music, dance and theatre. Similarly, they estimate 30 percent of all the city’s public schools have no certified arts teacher on staff.

Restrict High Stakes Testing in Grades K-2

Quinn announced her support for a bill sponsored by State Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan to ban high stakes standardized testing in grades K-2. Quinn will make it a priority using the bully pulpit of the Mayor to get this bill passed in both State chambers and signed into law.

Expand the Number of Schools Using Alternative Performance Measures

Quinn stated that as mayor, she will expand performance based assessment in more public schools throughout the city. This will include expanding the number of schools in the New York Performance Standards Consortium and replicating the Outward Bound model of Student-Led Conferences, where students maintain portfolios of their achievements in academics, service, fitness, and the arts, and present them in formal reviews that they themselves lead in front of their teachers and parents. Outward Bound reports that not only do Student-Led Conferences increase investment in learning from students, they increase parental engagement, and schools with average attendance rates of 50% at regular parent-teacher conferences have 100% attendance rates for Student-Led Conferences.

Eliminate Stand-Alone Field Testing

Quinn today reiterated her call to eliminate stand-alone field testing in city schools. In 2012, 488,000 students across New York State took experimental field tests which have no impact on a student’s grades and are used exclusively to try out questions for future exams at no cost to the state’s contracted testing company Pearson. As mayor, Chris will continue her fight to push the State Department of Education and Pearson to eliminate these stand-alone field tests.

Make Physical Education Available in Every School

As mayor, Quinn will ensure that every student in every school receives physical education (PE) by 1) requiring that all new schools be constructed with either indoor or outdoor physical education space, 2) helping existing schools forge partnerships with community based organizations that provide creative PE options, and 3) adding PE to school progress reports to ensure that these classes are viewed as part of the core curriculum. Quinn discussed how students with physical activity and education has been shown to both improve academic performance and combat childhood obesity but many schools in New York City currently do not meet state physical education standards.