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A Plan to Test the City’s Youngest Pupils

Ohanian Comment: Jane Hirschmann is right: This would be criminal behavior. Tovah P. Klein is right: No matter what they say, such tests become high stakes because they label children and direct the curricululm.

New York City elementary teachers must

  • demand that their union fight against this mayoral gamesmanship that harms children

  • read the New York code of ethics

  • demand in writing from administrators who follow the mayor's directive a statement that they are being asked to work against this Code of Ethics that comes from the Board of Regents

  • AND
  • refuse to do it

  • Failure to heed this Code of Ethics, passed by the Board of Regents is both unprofessional and unconscionable.

    New York State Code of Ethics for Educators

    Statement of Purpose

    The Code of Ethics is a public statement by educators that sets clear expectations and principles to guide practice and inspire professional excellence. Educators believe a commonly held set of principles can assist in the individual exercise of professional judgment. This Code speaks to the core values of the profession. "Educator" as used throughout means all educators serving New York schools in positions requiring a certificate, including classroom teachers, school leaders and pupil personnel service providers.

    Principle 1: Educators nurture the intellectual, physical, emotional, social, and civic potential of each student.

    Educators promote growth in all students through the integration of intellectual, physical, emotional, social and civic learning. They respect the inherent dignity and worth of each individual. Educators help students to value their own identity, learn more about their cultural heritage, and practice social and civic responsibilities. They help students to reflect on their own learning and connect it to their life experience. They engage students in activities that encourage diverse approaches and solutions to issues, while providing a range of ways for students to demonstrate their abilities and learning. They foster the development of students who can analyze, synthesize, evaluate and communicate information effectively.

    Principle 2: Educators create, support, and maintain challenging learning environments for all.

    Educators apply their professional knowledge to promote student learning. They know the curriculum and utilize a range of strategies and assessments to address differences. Educators develop and implement programs based upon a strong understanding of human development and learning theory. They support a challenging learning environment. They advocate for necessary resources to teach to higher levels of learning. They establish and maintain clear standards of behavior and civility. Educators are role models, displaying the habits of mind and work necessary to develop and apply knowledge while simultaneously displaying a curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. They invite students to become active, inquisitive, and discerning individuals who reflect upon and monitor their own learning.

    Principle 3: Educators commit to their own learning in order to develop their practice.

    Educators recognize that professional knowledge and development are the foundations of their practice. They know their subject matter, and they understand how students learn. Educators respect the reciprocal nature of learning between educators and students. They engage in a variety of individual and collaborative learning experiences essential to develop professionally and to promote student learning. They draw on and contribute to various forms of educational research to improve their own practice.

    Principle 4: Educators collaborate with colleagues and other professionals in the interest of student learning.

    Educators encourage and support their colleagues to build and maintain high standards. They participate in decisions regarding curriculum, instruction and assessment designs, and they share responsibility for the governance of schools. They cooperate with community agencies in using resources and building comprehensive services in support of students. Educators respect fellow professionals and believe that all have the right to teach and learn in a professional and supportive environment. They participate in the preparation and induction of new educators and in professional development for all staff.

    Principle 5: Educators collaborate with parents and community, building trust and respecting confidentiality.

    Educators partner with parents and other members of the community to enhance school programs and to promote student learning. They also recognize how cultural and linguistic heritage, gender, family and community shape experience and learning. Educators respect the private nature of the special knowledge they have about students and their families and use that knowledge only in the students' best interests. They advocate for fair opportunity for all children.

    Principle 6: Educators advance the intellectual and ethical foundation of the learning community.

    Educators recognize the obligations of the trust placed in them. They share the responsibility for understanding what is known, pursuing further knowledge, contributing to the generation of knowledge, and translating knowledge into comprehensible forms. They help students understand that knowledge is often complex and sometimes paradoxical. Educators are confidantes, mentors and advocates for their students' growth and development. As models for youth and the public, they embody intellectual honesty, diplomacy, tact and fairness.

    This Code shall not be used as a basis for discipline by any employer and shall not be used by the State Education Department as a basis for a proceeding under Part 83 of Commissioner's Regulations, nor shall it serve as a basis for decisions pertaining to certification or employment in New York State. Conversely, this Code shall not be interpreted or used to diminish the authority of any public school employer to evaluate or discipline any employee under provisions of law, regulation, or collective bargaining agreement.

    * Background on the Development of the Code

    The State Board of Regents, as part of its teaching reform initiatives outlined in the 1998 report, New York's Commitment: Teaching to Higher Standards, called for the State Professional Standards and Practices Board for Teaching to develop a Code of Ethics for Teachers. In New York State, a teacher is defined as anyone for whom a certificate is required for service in the State's public schools. This includes classroom teachers, school administrators, and pupil personnel service providers.

    The Standards Board is a 28-member board that serves in an advisory capacity to the Regents and the Commissioner of Education. Its membership consists of teachers, school administrators, higher education representatives, public members, and a teacher education student. The Board worked for over a year to develop a draft Code of Ethics. The process involved a review of numerous other codes developed by professional organizations and by other jurisdictions, both for the teaching profession and for other professions. Individual Board members also consulted with their colleagues in the field to inform the process.

    A draft was presented to the Regents Committee on Higher and Professional Education at the October 2001 Board of Regents meeting. Following this preliminary review by the Regents, the draft Code of Ethics was released for public comment. Reactions and suggestions were received from as broad a spectrum as possible: classroom teachers, school administrators and pupil personnel professionals, other members of the school community, teacher education students, college faculty, professional organizations, boards of education, parents and the general public.

    The State Standards and Practices Board reviewed all comments received and produced the final version of the code in June 2002. The New York State Code of Ethics for Educators was presented to the Board of Regents at its July 2002 meeting.

    --New York State Education Department

    By Elissa Gootman

    The Bloomberg administration, which has made accountability the watchword of its overhaul of public education, is asking elementary school principals across the city to give standardized tests in English and math to children as young as kindergartners.

    In an e-mail message sent on Monday evening, the Education Department's chief accountability officer, James S Liebman, urged principals to join a yearlong pilot program with five testing options for kindergarten through second grade, including timed paper-and-pencil assessments in which students record answers in booklets for up to 90 minutes, as well as ones in which teachers record observations of individual students on Palm Pilots.

    Mr. Liebman, the architect of the city's much-debated program of assigning schools letter grades of A through F, said in his message that because New York --like most of the country-- now begins formal testing in third grade, the system "does not give schools credit for this foundational work or provide you with the means to evaluate the effectiveness of your K-2 programs."

    The pilot program, which will cost $400,000 and was not publicly announced, is already inciting outrage among some educators and advocates who worry that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's efforts to overhaul the school system have been overly focused on standardized testing.

    While the federal No Child Left Behind law has required schools nationwide to administer tests starting in the third grade since 2002, Mr. Bloomberg has gone further, using test scores to determine school grades as well as bonuses for teachers and principals. The administration has also expressed interest in using test scores to determine teacher tenure, an idea that is being blocked by legislators in Albany.

    Throughout the city and across the nation, teachers and parents have protested the increasing time spent on testing--and test preparation--particularly in elementary grades, where critics say that development of children's creativity has suffered. Some experts question the effectiveness of such assessments for very young children, where lessons about sharing and socialization are sometimes considered as important as facts and figures.

    "It sounds like a downward extension of whatever's good, but also what's bad about standardized testing in the higher grades, with more risk because we know that standardized testing isn't appropriate at those ages," said Lorrie Shepard, dean of the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "Now they're venturing into territory where many more people say that the negative will far outweigh any positive."

    In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Liebman stressed that the pilot program was voluntary-- he said 50 of the city's 700-some elementary principals had already expressed interest--and that the tests were not high-stakes. They would not, for example, determine whether students moved to the next grade, as is the case with older children.

    Mr. Liebman also pointed out that kindergartners and first and second graders are already evaluated by their teachers. Most schools use a system called the Early Childhood Literacy Assessment System, which takes teachers a long time to administer because they must meet with every child individually.

    The new testing methods combine results in English and math for a single cumulative score for each child, he said, making comparisons across classrooms and over time easier.

    "This is a substitute for something that is already taking place and has been for years, and which schools have found to be very powerful but want to be more powerful because they want to be able to measure progress," he said. "If you told a doctor, 'I want you to treat me but I do not want you to take my temperature, I don't want you to take any blood samples, I don't want you to do any diagnosis, just treat me,' the doctor would be at a loss to know what to do."

    He said this year's experiment could include up to 12,720 of the city's 200,000 or so kindergarten through second graders, and that depending on the results, the city could mandate a single test to be used next year, allow principals to choose which tests they prefer or go back to doing things the way they were done before. His e-mail message to principals promised that their feedback "will provide an important basis, among others, for deciding whether it would be appropriate in coming years to measure progress in grades K-2 and, if so, how best to do so."

    Mr. Liebman said that in future years, elementary school principals might be able to request that their kindergarten through second-grade scores be incorporated into their overall report card grades. Asked whether all school report card grades might someday include the youngest children's scores, he said: "We just haven't been thinking about that. We've talked about the option possibility."

    In fact, Mr. Liebman said the new pilot program was developed after principals complained that the A through F grades, which judge schools largely on the basis of yearly progress on standardized tests, did not reflect the progress they had made with their youngest children.

    But Jane Hirschmann, the founder of Time Out From Testing, a New York City anti-testing group, called the pilot program "criminal behavior," saying of the Bloomberg administration, "They're committed to turning curriculum into a testing regime."

    "They knew they were going to be up against a very big movement saying, now you've gone way too far, so what do they do?" said Ms. Hirschmann. "They wait until the summer, and they sneak it in the back door."

    Tovah P. Klein, director of the Barnard Center for Toddler Development, said that even if the tests were not intended to have real consequences, they would.

    "Once you have a number behind a kid, it becomes high stakes because teachers make judgments on kids--"Oh, this kid needs remedial help, this kid's not learning as well. It ranks kids," she said. "What these tests do is say to the teachers, 'This is what matters, that kids know this single decontextualized piece of information.'"

    Among the options that principals may choose from are two written exams--designed by the well-known testing companies CTB/McGraw-Hill and Pearson-- one of which will be given twice a year in English (55 to 70 minutes per test) and math (40 to 65 minutes), the other three times a year in both subjects (60 to 90 minutes each). Two other options involve 10-minute assessments, given three times a year, in which teachers record student observations based on a scripted dialogue. The fifth has students complete a test online, for 20 to 35 minutes, three times over the course of the year.

    Virginia Pepe, the principal of Public School 163, Alfred E. Smith, on the Upper West Side, said she would send someone to learn more about the testing at a coming information session.

    "We'll be going in as critical consumers and we will be making, I think, thoughtful decisions about what's going to be best for the children in our school," Dr. Pepe said. "Working in a very targeted way with children based upon assessment information can really have very positive results, if it's not used to shackle instruction but it's used to enrich the learning opportunities."

    But she noted that parents might balk at some of the options, saying: "If you're selling a 60-minute test in kindergarten, I'd be hard-pressed to make that sale."

    — Elissa Gootman
    New York Times




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