Superintendent addresses high-stakes testing

Saugerties superintendent Seth Turner. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Saugerties superintendent Seth Turner. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Saugerties school district Superintendent Seth Turner took the April 9 meeting as an opportunity to address “a flurry of discussion on Facebook” about testing prompted by a Saugerties Times article about opposition to high-stakes standardized testing. Turner differed with some teachers in the article who said the district has been less forceful in advocating for alternatives.

“I would really contend that this district has been well ahead of the curve on discussing assessments going back two-and-a-half years ago in which every member of this Board of Education and the administrators each read a copy of this book called The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. What we were doing was really trying to build a foundation of knowledge for the board members,” he said. Turner said he and trustee Bob Thomann attended the Ulster County School Board’s Association meeting. “I was pressing the commissioner about how should school districts handle parental requests to opt out of testing.”

The answer, according to Turner, is no. Citing the New York State administrators manual, he said: “There is no parental choice to opt out of a New York State assessment.” He said it was a matter of the law; a child in school must be tested, and no exceptions can be made to the testing procedures (with the exception of English Language Learners and students with special accommodations).


However, he was sympathetic with concerned parents. “I’m all for advocating change, but I don’t think any of us should do it with the children in the middle.” He encouraged concerned parents to appeal first and foremost to their school principals.