Sharon teacher's testing letter goes viral


By Patsy Nicosia

Angry over the impact standardized testing is having on her 22 eighth-grade students, Sharon Springs Central School English teacher Jennifer Field vented her frustrations in a two-page letter that's gone viral.
"After two days of the ELA exam, the eighth-graders have had enough..." begins the letter, posted by New York State United Teachers on its Facebook page Thursday.
Within days, Ms. Field's reaction had been "shared" by more than 1,400 people on Facebook and across the state, she believes because it touches a nerve in teachers, parents, and their stressed-out kids.
"I always tell my seniors how important it is to voice their opinion. That's one of the reasons good writing is so important," Ms. Field said.
So she took her own advice, sending copies of the letter to the State Education Department and local and state legislators as well as NYSUT.
The legislators replied with form letters and State Ed, not at all. NYSUT asked to use Ms. Field's letter on its Facebook page, under its "Testing Wars" blog.
"...the tests are not measuring anything except anxiety," she writes. "Where is the common sense? Where is the courtesy? Don't we want our students to be critical thinkers? How is this test proving that?"
The problems Ms. Field sees with tests her students spent three days taking and an unknown number of days worrying about are considerable:
• They're unnecessarily long and complicated. When she took them she finished with only about 20 minutes to check her work.
"My students did not have enough time. They wanted to do well...but I had to take their tests from them," she wrote.
• They're stressful for students, even those with high averages, who worry they won't be able to take the classes need if they don't do well on them and end up, unnecessarily, in AIS-remedial--classes instead.
• They don't measure either learning or teacher competency, but they're being used to evaluate both-and turning teachers and students into robots.
Though in the past teachers scored their students' tests and so knew what concepts they struggled with, that's no longer the case; they're scored elsewhere.
And though she hopes she'll get to see the seventh-grade results-next year's eighth-graders-Ms. Field said she'll never hear how the students she's teaching this year did on the tests.
"[This] is proving that New York State will do anything for funding, do anything to keep jobs at the state level, and do anything to keep the test-making companies in business," she wrote.
In a perfect world, Ms. Field hopes her letter will help State Ed realize the system needs to be reworked.
"Instead of more exams, let's abolish tests for a five-year period and see what happens," she suggested.
"Let's look at the big picture. Let teachers do what we were trained to do."