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Another Voice: New chancellor should support state assessments

By Sam Radford and Jason Zwara

Betty Rosa, New York State’s new Regents chancellor, began her tenure by emphasizing that she is focused on a commitment to “social justice and equity.”

That is the kind of thinking New York needs to ensure that all children are receiving the same high-quality education, no matter where they grow up. From Buffalo to the suburbs and beyond, a ZIP code shouldn’t determine whether a student is prepared for the future.

Unfortunately, there is a proverbial fly in the ointment. Rosa, who was endorsed by a group determined to force children out of taking tests and tear down higher standards, is speaking out against the state assessments.

Opt-out organizers have already received essentially every change they’ve requested. For instance, there is a new testing provider in New York State and, most critically, the exams are delinked from both teacher evaluations and student promotion decisions.

For opt-outers, it is finally time to take yes for an answer.

This year there are even more specific changes in place, including the removal of time limits and fewer questions, to reduce pressure on children.

The tests are purely diagnostic and critically important; they measure the skills our kids need to succeed in college and careers.

Most important, test results are the only way we can compare an inner-city student to a suburban one, or low-income children in Buffalo to higher-income children elsewhere. They show us the existence of a staggering achievement gap for African-American and Latino children when compared with their counterparts.

The tests are how educators make sure that no child, and no city, is allowed to fall through the cracks – which unfortunately happened far too often under the old, failed system. We cannot simply ignore disparities and challenges just because they are inconvenient or hard to overcome. 

The good news is we’re already making progress. But, clearly, there’s more work to do.

Rosa would be wise to repudiate the anti-testing crowd’s destructive path and efforts to pull the rug out from under this work and from under our educators.

We take Rosa at her word that social justice and equity in education are her main motivations. In fact, we’re encouraged that that is where her focus lies. Because if we are honest about what it takes to achieve equality, then we know that every child must take this year’s assessments. Rosa should recognize – and support – that.

Sam Radford is president of the Buffalo District Parent Coordinating Council. Jason Zwara is executive director of Buffalo ReformEd. Both are members of the pro-Common Core group High Achievement New York.