Rep. Gibson's son takes a pass on standardized tests

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By Joe Moskowitz
This is the week that many teachers, students, and educators dread. Students in grades three through eight are taking assessment tests. New York State has been administering the math and English Language Arts assessment tests for years, but because of the federally funded Race to the Top, and the state mandated Common Core requirements, the tests have become considerably more diffi­cult in recent years.
One child who won’t be taking the tests is a son of 19th District Congressman Chris Gibson. He has “opted out” of taking the tests. Last year another of Gibson’s children also opted out of taking the tests.
Congressman Gibson told the News on Monday that refusing to take the tests is a personal decision based on his long-standing opposition to “high-stakes” testing.
Gibson, a Republican, dislikes high-stakes testing so much that he has joined Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Synema of Arizona in sponsoring a bill in Congress which would rollback all testing to the days before No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core Standards all came into being.
Gibson said he has no problem with higher education goals and thinks boards of education should set them, but he does not like standard tests because of the pressure they create, as well as their unintended results.
Gibson, a graduate of Siena College, said he is the first member of his family to graduate from college, but he said his brother, who is an auto mechanic, and his sister, who is a hair dresser, are living very happy and successful lives and that they learned their trades at BOCES.

Wrong approach
He said the hard-stakes testing and other mandates force schools to dedicate all of their funds toward preparing students for four-year colleges and ignore the need of other students, one of the unintended results he does not like. He said that when the No Child Left Behind mandate was started, 25 percent of high school graduates went on to a four-year college. That number, he said, has only risen slightly to 28 percent today.
Gibson also told the News that he has no problem with competition in sports or business, but it is a bad idea in education. He said that a school in Westchester County starts out well funded and has kids who come to school well fed, well rested and probably from well-educated parents. He went on to say that it is unfair for a school, with less money and disadvantaged kids to have to compete with the more wealthy school.

Too many questions
Roxbury Central School Superintendent Thomas O’Brien said Tuesday that teachers, parents, and he have problems with testing kids on a curriculum that still hasn’t been developed, but the school has a state mandate and must administer the tests. There are however, some parents of RCS students who are doing the same thing Gibson is doing.
O’Brien said opting out isn’t really an option that the state offers, but he said if parents are adamant about not wanting a child to take the tests, he is not going to force them. If a student sits down and is handed the test and says he or she isn’t going to take it, the student goes to another room to do something else.
O’Brien told the News, “Parents have the right to educate their kids the way they want but the school is required to follow the state mandate, so the tests will be administered, whether anybody likes it or not.”