What is a “Field Test?”
Field tests are used by Pearson and other test developers to “try out” new questions for future exams. Some field test items are included in annual NYS exams. Although these items don’t count toward students’ scores, they make the exams longer and contribute to children not finishing. New York State also asks schools to conduct “stand alone” field tests.
What’s Wrong with Field Tests?
- Field tests are an integral part of high-stakes-testing, a system that narrows curriculum and dampens children’s natural enthusiasm for learning. When the stakes are unreasonably high, it encourages widespread teaching to the test and cheating, wastes ever-shrinking resources, and results in inaccurate measures of student performance.
- Field tests provide misleading data. Children aren’t motivated to do well on “trial” exams.
- Reputable researchers spell out their aims, invite participation, and pay subjects. This is not the case with test publishers. Children provide free labor for product-testing, while their parents and even their schools are kept in the dark.
Why Opt Out?
No child is required to take a field test, and opting out will in no way harm their record, their teachers, or their school.
Publishers of field tests see them as essential for creating standardized exams. Without field tests, they argue, there would be no exams. So opting out is a powerful way to demonstrate your opposition to high-stakes testing.
How to Opt Out
- Ask you child’s principal when field tests will be given at your school (typically only one or two grades are tested).
- Share your concerns about field tests with this other parents and see if you can get a group to opt out.
- Send a letter to your principal saying that your child will not participate in field tests.
- Work with the principal and your child’s teacher to make sure parents are informed about tests and that students who opt out of field tests are allowed to read or engage in another meaningful activity during the test.