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What Kind of Education Does Your Child Deserve?

Stacey Young and concerned parents of Garden City submitted the following letter to the editor.

A group of concerned parents in Garden City believes New York State has imposed a testing program on children that does not challenge them to think critically, to wonder or to be passionate about learning.
A group of concerned parents in Garden City believes New York State has imposed a testing program on children that does not challenge them to think critically, to wonder or to be passionate about learning.
What kind of education does your child deserve? I ask myself that question as I watch my own children head off to school each morning. Of course, our children deserve to go to school feeling safe, cared for and surrounded by teachers that will do whatever it takes to help them learn and grow as young adolescents.

More than that, our children also deserve to be challenged each day, pushed to think critically, expand their knowledge and to see things from multiple new perspectives. Our children should be laughing and smiling throughout the day as they find true joy in learning with their classmates. The actual act of learning should be fun, exciting, and dare I say… INSPIRING!

Currently, New York State has imposed a testing program on our children that does not challenge them to think critically, to wonder or to be passionate about learning. Instead, it asks teachers to rush through more content at a faster pace without leaving time to explore, to wonder, or to think about how important concepts are relevant to the world around them. I do not believe this was the intent of the NYS Common Core Curriculum, which so appropriately pushes teachers to go deeper with content, teaching our students to think more critically as readers and writers of information, preparing them for college and career readiness in the 21st century.

In addition, policy makers (not a single public educator was part of the development process) now tie these test results to teacher evaluations, which pressures teachers to focus more on test preparation, endless worksheets, multiple choice questions and ways to “game” the test. The result of these policies across New York State has been learning through completion of test prep handouts, boring learning activities, uninspiring lesson plans and scores of teachers that are now afraid to take risks, to innovate or to create interesting and inspiring learning experiences for children. This should be unacceptable to all of us who have children in public school.

As residents of Garden City, we are aware of the importance of doing well on state tests. In fact, our students do extremely well on these tests already. We know that students need to be able to do well on Regents exams, AP exams and SATs. Our district already spends time preparing our students, helping them to learn how to succeed on standardized tests. However, our main focus cannot be and should never be focused so narrowly on the outcome of simple standardized test scores. Our schools must demonstrate an unwavering commitment to make learning fun, engaging, interesting and inspiring for your children. We must help to empower our district to create interdisciplinary connections, read high level texts and create authentic assessment opportunities for our children. The scores across NYS will go up and politicians will cheer. But what does “up” on poorly written formulaic tests really mean for our children?

This is not just about the numerous days that your children are now spending taking tests for New York State. This is also about how these new policies are negatively impacting the direction that instruction is taking in the classroom. As we fight this tidal wave of unfunded state mandates that affects our children and our wallets, we as parents must take a stand. We must learn more about how these state tests and these teacher evaluation systems are impacting our children. Read more about this by going to the following sample of news links:
1. http://www.newyorkprincipals.org/legislators - Please write to the legislators and Board of Regents
2. http://timeoutfromtesting.org/nationalresolution/
3. http://www.schoolleadership20.com/profiles/blogs/dear-parents-a-must-read-by-donald-sternberg, Wantagh Elementary School Principal
4. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/three-ed-reforms-
parents-should-worry-about-most/2012/08/23/88895c7c-ec95-11e1-aca7-
272630dfd152_blog.html
5. http://www.saanys.org/viewarticle.asp?id=3455
“Niagara Region PTA Adopts Resolution To Stop Over Testing In New York State
Public Schools”
6. www.SchoolsMatter.info and www.ParentsAcrossAmerica.org http://
parentsacrossamerica.org/why-more-standardized-tests-wont-improve-education/


Garden City and all of the communities around the state should be striving to challenge our districts to push students to think in interesting ways, to behave like young scientists, mathematicians, artists and musicians; to be great readers, writers, poets and journalists (not form letter writers as the tests seem to require).

We should be teaching our children to innovate, create and wonder about the world around them so that they can grow up with an understanding of our world and to develop amazing solutions to the problems we adults currently fail to resolve. Instead, New York State politicians will force us to develop a generation of students that know how to "game" short response and multiple choice question exams. How will this make America a stronger nation? How does that connect with the challenges our children will need to face when they become young adults? We must make a change in the direction our schools are heading. Teacher and administrator voices will NOT be heard, as it will be seen as a defensive act against being evaluated. Unfortunately this is not a fight they can win.

If we are going to impact change, it needs to start with the unwavering support and outcry of our parent base. It needs to start with the mothers and fathers that care so deeply about the education of their children. So I ask you, what are you prepared to do?
kent penney October 10, 2012 at 07:13 AM
Stacey, I agree that student assessment and standardized testing is out of control. But you really are talking about symptoms and not the real cause of the problem. Starting w/ No Child Left Behind, the Fed gov't attempted (and failed miserably) to improve underperforming schools w/ the carrot/stick of Fed. funds and testing as its measure. This has since metastasized to states, which now use tests to fight against powerful teacher's unions in order to remove ineffective teachers and fight rediculous rules of seniority and tenure. While this is a problem, it just points to the effectiveness of these unions to safeguard their customers (teachers, not students or their parents). Why are they so successful? Simple: Public schools neither have competitors nor paying customers - they are giant government monopolies. If there was true competition, the best teachers would be paid more and work at the most successful schools. Underperforming schools would wither and die. Administrators would have no clothes. If parents could spend THEIR OWN money as they saw fit, they could send their kids to schools w/out tests, in this example. Maybe your kid is an amazing athlete? A scholar? Then you send them to a school that specializes in that. This is what School Choice all about. This says nothing about the massive cost savings that would result from free-market competition. I know you are smart and care deeply about this topic. So, I ask you Stacey, who is better to determine the best way to educate your child? You or some Government civil servant?
Debra Cupani October 29, 2012 at 12:04 AM
I hear what you are saying Stacey and Kent. Parents should be empowered in their child's education. Students should be able to maximize their learning through choice. The public school system is flawed. Definitely. It's also supposed to be a level playing field so every American child has the opportunity to have a quality education. The difference is the people. The teachers, the parents, the students, the administrators. The level of involvement is in direct proportion to its success, which is probably why our community consistently does well. It's not as you envision, Kent, but there is a form of school choice... most of us choose to live in Garden City because of the schools. Families can also choose to send their child to a private or magnet school that best facilitates their skills and talents. If there was school choice, I'd be afraid the gap of achievement would be widened. Those who have the means would succeed. Those who don't, would fail. What am I prepared to do? I am prepared to fight for authentic assessments.

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