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100 Powerful Learning Specialist and Educational Therapy Materials

This week I wanted to tell you about my online store, Good Sensory Learning. I’m Dr. Erica Warren, and I established this site so I could share all the materials that I have created over the last 20+ years as a learning specialist and educational therapist. When I first began my private practice, Learning to Learn, I had great difficulty finding fun and multisensory materials for my students that were effective and engaging. So back in 2005, I made it my mission to design and distribute high-end, remedial products as well as memorable, motivating lessons that bring delight to learning. If you would like to try a free sampling of my activities , CLICK HERE . How Are the Products Organized at Good Sensory Learning? You can download my Free Printable Catalog or you can browse the site using the grey “search all products” bar in the top right of any page with keywords such as dyslexia, working memory, and executive functioning. What’s more, drop down menus in the red banner allow you t

New York State Tests - 10 Reasons to Opt Out

In New York State, most middle schoolers are amidst state-mandated standardized tests. This involves four days of testing for ELA and Math, and many families debate about whether it is best to let their children take these tests or opt out altogether.
Are you concerned about the effects of state standardized testing on your child or students? Some states allow parents to opt out of the state tests for their children, but this has become a controversial issue in education. Click through to learn more about opting out of state tests and to get 10 reasons why you should consider it.
What is the Purpose of the Testing? 
According to the NYS Department of Education: "The federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 maintains the requirement that students in Grades 3-8 are tested once a year in English Language Arts and Math."  They purport that, "The tests are designed to measure how well students are mastering the learning standards that guide classroom instruction and ensure that students are on track to graduate from high school."

Can Parents Opt Their Children Out of State Tests or Request an Alternative?  
According to the NYS Department of Education, if students want to opt out of state tests, their parents need to consult their school district's principal. Principals should respect a parent's decision to opt out and provide an alternate educational activity (e.g., reading) during testing times. 

NYS Has Made Some Positive Changes:
New York State has responded to parental and teacher concerns, and they have made a few noteworthy alterations.
  • English and math assessments now last four days instead of six days.
  • Students are allotted additional time to complete the state tests.
  • Many schools are using a new assessment with fewer items.
Many Schools are Using Scare Tactics:
I have been shocked to see how many schools are bullying their students and parents into taking these tests.  I have heard that some principals have suggested that all students are required to take them, while others are sending letters to parents assuring them that "an individual student's performance on state tests is not used in isolation to make placement, enrichment, or support decisions."  In one letter a local school district pressured their students and parents by saying, "In past years, SED had not counted test refusals in grade or district averages. This year they have mandated that students who do not participate in testing will be scored an automatic level 1, non-proficient. Therefore, the number of students who refuse testing...will create a skewed view of our district’s performance."  Students and parents have expressed to me both alarm and concern about schools "scoring those that opt out."

Are Schools Penalized When Students Opt Out of State Testing?
When schools have at least 95% participation in state tests, in the past they have received a "Reward designation" from the state, and they were eligible to receive funds (up to $50,000) "to further enhance the school’s own best practices."

10 Reasons to Opt Out
  1. Because the state tests are not returned to the students, they do not have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
  2. With results from the test providing a single score, there are no item specifications or qualitative data that can help teachers learn which concepts require more attention.
  3. Valuable instruction time is used "studying for the test."
  4. Millions of dollars are wasted every year on these tests, and this money could have been used in better ways.
  5. These tests take the joy out of both teaching and learning.
  6. Many students are experiencing clinical levels of test anxiety, which is getting in the way of them showing their true ability.
  7. These tests are notorious for having poorly worded and confusing items.
  8. The test questions are not created by the teacher, so the content may be presented differently.
  9. By allowing your child to take the tests, you are empowering the state to continue this nonsense.
  10. It's good to teach your children when to say “no" and stand up for their rights.  What's more, if enough families opt out, it will force the state to come up with better alternatives. 
How Can I Opt My Child Out of State Testing?
Your best bet is to opt out of the test in writing.

In short, as we endeavor to prepare our children for a successful and happy life, let's be mindful of supporting the best practices and opt out of the rest.

Cheers, Erica
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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