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Teachers: ‘sit and stare’ policy is ‘spiteful’

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Believe it or not, some school administrators are forcing kids who are opting out of taking high-stakes standardized tests to sit in their chairs and stare while their classmates complete the exams. (You can read about it here.) Here’s a resolution by the Buffalo Teachers Federation against this policy, which I am publishing because it represents the thinking of many critics of this policy. The resolution refers to the NYSED, which stands for the New York State Education Department.

B.T.F Council of Delegates – Sit and Stare Resolution

WHEREAS: Although the B.T.F. doesn’t encourage or discourage decisions by parents to refuse testing in Buffalo or around New York, it does recognize that thousands of parents, from across the state, refused to let their children take various tests last year and that the number of refusals is expected to rise this year and;

WHEREAS: Many school districts have adopted, or are considering adopting, educationally unsound and punitive policies that force children (whose parents refuse to let them take certain tests) to “sit and stare” at a blank desk in front of them for the duration of each assessment and;

WHEREAS: NYSED, NY Lawmakers and the Regents have not provided specific guidance to the over 700 school districts in New York as to providing protection to children from harmful “sit and stare” policies and;

WHEREAS: It is both spiteful and counter productive for any public school district to require a professional educator to direct a child to “sit and stare” at a blank desk while other students are taking assessments.

WHEREAS: NYSUT has forcefully condemned “sit and stare” policies aimed at students whose parents refuse to let their children take state standardized tests as “unconscionable” and has actively engaged both [New York State] Commissioner [John] King and Chancellor [Merryl] Tisch to provide school districts with “sound guidance” on “sit and stare” and;

WHEREAS: Precedent has been set by other large districts such as West Seneca Central and Ken-Ton, which have adopted protocols that allow students to read without SED censure or loss of funding and although Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Pamela Brown recently stated that she does not support “sit and stare” policies – Buffalo does not have a written protocol for parents, teachers and administrators to follow and;

WHEREAS: Local education leaders believe that “sit and stare” policies are acceptable. In Lancaster, NY the School Board President recently said “I do not believe this is punishment to have students sit there,” and the Board President went on to say to a parent “if you are not happy, then I ask you to look elsewhere…” and The NY State Education Commissioner’s field representative to WNY, recently said “[t]heir premise that sitting there is punishment … I don’t agree with that.” and;

WHEREAS: The New York State P.T.A. recently stated that “ … some parents will request that their children be permitted to sit quietly and read a book or even be given alternative work after they refuse a test. To prohibit these activities seems unreasonable as they are neither disruptive nor do they compromise SED’s test Security Protocols” and;

WHEREAS: Parents, New York State PTA, parent groups such as NYSAPE, Parents for a Quality Education & Buffalo PTO, superintendents, various school boards & lawmakers along with professional public educators are united in spirit and have voiced concern about “Sit and Stare” policies and; WHEREAS: NYSUT strongly supports a parent’s right to refuse a state standardized test as it has unequivocally stated that it “will vigorously defend any NYSUT members who are subject to any negative employment considerations for choosing to opt-out their own child or who advocate, to the extent permitted by law, for others who opt out of State Standardized Tests.”


THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED IN UNITY: That the B.T.F. work with and support all of our allies who advocate district policies that provide a supportive testing environment and protect students from harmful “sit and stare” policies and instruct districts to provide alternative locations and/or activities for students whose parents choose to refuse various tests that are given to children and;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the B.T.F. seek to work with Buffalo’s Superintendent, School Board and other stakeholders to develop a thoughtful policy on how to deal with children whose parents have refused testing and to make that policy public to District families and employees and;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the B.T.F. notify all of its members that both the B.T.F. and NYSUT will vigorously defend any members who are subject to any negative employment considerations for choosing to opt-out their own child or who advocate, to the extent permitted by law, for others who opt out of State Standardized Tests and;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the B.T.F. request our national affiliates to support the call for an end to “sit and stare” policies by sending a copy of this resolution to their respective offices, and to the news media, and;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That copies of this resolution be sent to Buffalo Teachers via e-mail.


Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · March 21, 2014

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