SWR Board of Education president William McGrath explains why he opposes field testing during last Tuesday’s meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)
Last December, the Shoreham-Wading River school board took a stand against so-called “field testing” of students.
In a unanimous 7-0 vote, the board condemned the tests, which are ordered by the state to help testing companies fine-tune their questions. The board wrote in a resolution that the testing “would hurt children and abuse the public trust by subsidizing private enterprise without public discussion.”
The district’s administration moved forward with a plan to forgo the tests and have students go through normal school days during that allotted time.
But last Tuesday, the board was forced to backtrack on resisting the state’s rules after facing potential cuts in state aid — or worse — as punishment.
According to the school board, the state has not clarified whether the tests are mandatory.
The state refused to clarify what that means, said school board president William McGrath, leaving the district uncertain of whether it can opt out of the tests without facing consequences.
“This is clearly a situation of legal uncertainty,” said the district’s attorney, Patricia Unz.
“It’s a load of crap,” Mr. McGrath said. “I think that these tests … are a waste of instructional time.”
Earlier during last Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. McGrath pushed to cancel the tests and face any potential consequences from the state, which could include withholding state aid or punishment of district administrators.
“If it ‘means my job’ then it means my job,” Mr. McGrath said.
But while every board member at last Tuesday’s meeting said they opposed the field tests, Robert Rose and John Zukowski said they were worried the state would make an example of Shoreham-Wading River if they resisted.
“I totally disagree with them, I really do,” Mr. Rose said. “But I’m not willing to throw someone’s career out there and let the state do what they want with it.”
“People are drawing the lines in the sand in Albany, and I don’t want to be caught, as a district, on the wrong side of that line and maybe be the poster child for what Albany can do to a district,” added Mr. Zukowski.
An assistant district superintendent said the tests would be 45 minutes long and take place during the students’ normal class time — meaning, for example, that social studies field tests would be given during social studies class.
In the end, the risk was too great for the board, which unanimously and begrudgingly voted to hold the tests.
After the vote, Mr. McGrath explained to the one parent present at the meeting that the board’s hands were tied by the state education department. He urged residents to contact their state representatives and demand the tests be stopped.
“It has to come from the public,” he said. “The message has to get to them.”