Saturday, August 24, 2013

Have Our Children Failed, Or Have the Tests Failed Our Children?

Letter to the Editor from SUNY New Paltz Professor Nancy Schiedewind
New Paltz Times, August 22nd, 2013

    Last week the NYS Education Department released the results of the recent Common Core tests for grades 3-8, highlighting the decreased passing rates. However, rather than interpreting the scores to mean that student learning has suddenly plummeted, I see it as part of the continued manipulation of test scores by educational leaders in Albany. Or, if after 15 years of “reform-through-testing” most of our students are indeed failing, hasn’t the testing movement itself failed?

    Education Commissioner John King is leading us down the wrong path, harming children, their families, and teachers. Instead of more testing, the Commissioner and Board of Regents should follow the examples of more successful countries, such as Finland, and as recommended by educational research.         

    More and harder tests do not work. In fact, results from the more reliable National Assessment for Educational Progress exams reveal that New York State has made little progress over the last 15 years. Instead of more standardized curriculum and tests, teachers need support to create challenging curriculum designed to build on students’ abilities and interests.

     Students need to learn the skills necessary to become responsible workers and active citizens. This includes complex skills like critical thinking, writing and speaking, problem solving, and how to apply these skills to the real world. Recent research shows that skills that develop students’ social and emotional learning better prepare students for careers than success on high stakes tests.    
   Rather than losing valuable instructional time to excessive test preparation, schools should assess student growth through regular assessment of each student’s work. Such a sensible approach to assessment could save school districts millions of dollars. Race to the Top funding has not provided schools districts with adequate funding for these tests. The millions of dollars for testing paid to corporations like Pearson could rather be used to restore cuts to educational and after-school programs that our school districts want and deserve.

    To learn more about how the tests are failing our children go to the home page of
Nancy Schniedewind

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