PLATTSBURGH — Acts of civil disobedience are planned for classrooms around the country this April, Margarita Garcia-Notario told Plattsburgh City School Board members.
Parents concerned with education reforms and increased standardized testing have started refusing to allow their children to take the annual state exams given in third through eighth grade.
“Today, many of our children are highly stressed because the amount of testing has become shamefully unacceptable,” she said at the recent meeting.
Garcia-Notario serves as president of Stafford Middle School’s Family School Organization and as co-president of Plattsburgh High School’s Community School Organization.
Documents distributed by those groups to area parents and provided to the Press-Republican describe the strategy of the protest.
Parents are given a form letter that can be sent to local educators and school administrators. The letter says that their children are to be placed in the “refusal” category as described in the 2013-14 New York State Student Information Repository System Manual.
A student marked as a refusal is not the same as one marked as absent, the letter explains. Absent students are given the test again at a later date, while refusal pupils will continue with normal classroom activities during any retesting dates.
Garcia-Notario emphasized that the protests are not directed toward the local school administrators or educators but intended to send a message to state and federal legislators.
“We understand that by refusing these exams we are sending a strong voice to our legislators and telling them we like our schools, we like what they’re doing, and this program is hurting,” she said.
Among the details of the Common Core program that Garcia-Notario criticized were the use of state examination results in evaluating teacher performance and the restrictions of classroom lesson plans to fit only the questions asked on the standardized exams.
She praised the Plattsburgh City School system for the variety of activities and subjects that it offered for her children, Plattsburgh High School student Gabriela Beatham-Garcia and Stafford Middle School student Micaela Beatham-Garcia.
“I am very proud of what my children have been able to receive, the cordial tone of the schools and a very rich curriculum,” she said.
Garcia-Notario also emphasized that the decision to protest the exams is solely the responsibility of the district’s parents and asked that refusal students be treated respectfully during the examination period.
City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short, during the meeting’s closing remarks, said that principals were already preparing alternate activities for students to work on during the examination dates.
On Jan. 25, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Board of Directors withdrew its support of the Common Core standards in their current form.
The union’s recommended modifications include the release of standardized testing results to improve classroom instruction, the complete preparation of all Common Core curricular materials and a three-year suspension of all high-stakes-testing consequences for students and teachers.
“It’s time to hit the ‘pause button’ on high stakes while, at the same time, increasing support for students, parents and educators,” NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira said in a press release.