"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, April 17, 2015

Great Letters on Testing and Opt Out from NY Times

Link here 
To the Editor:
Re “Some Parents Oppose Standardized Testing in Principle, but Not in Practice” (news article, April 14):

On April 15 and 16, the days after a record number of students “opted out” of New York State standardized tests in English language arts, not a single word in this paper was dedicated to this groundswell of grass-roots opposition to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s testing and evaluation scheme.
While statistics are difficult to compile, it is clear that parents, in large numbers, are openly protesting what they see as state political leaders eroding the quality of public schools and siphoning local control away from them. It is also an example of politically strange bedfellows, liberal and conservative, acting in concert.

It is one thing to disagree on the merits of these arguments, and perhaps to ignore the pleas of teachers who can be seen as acting in self-interest, but it is quite another not to follow up your April 14 news article — at least, not as of this writing — with coverage of this unprecedented act of civil disobedience by parents who are justifiably concerned about the welfare of their children.

Huntington Station, N.Y.

The writer is a public school teacher and the parent of grade-school children.

To the Editor:
If Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents, wants to compare the state exams in English and math to annual medical checkups, let’s do so.

My doctor uses thorough tests that are considered accurate and are endorsed by experts in the field. Kids take state tests that educational experts agree are inaccurate assessments of student ability.
My doctor reviews my personal medical history and adjusts the exam accordingly; it’s not the same one given to the next patient with very different needs. Kids take state tests that use a one-size-fits-all approach.

My doctor returns test results within a week, so we can immediately begin any treatment or behavior changes necessary to improve my health. Kids get test results in the late summer or fall, after they’ve moved on to the next grade.

And my doctor gives me a comprehensive assessment of my health, with specific numbers and details to guide my progress. Kids get a score of 1 to 4.

If doctors ran their practices the way the state runs education, most people would opt out of their annual checkup, too.

Liverpool, N.Y.

The writer teaches seventh-grade English in a public school.

To the Editor:
My wife and I opted our daughter out of standardized testing as an act of political protest against using unreliable tests as a basis for teacher evaluation.

The so-called value-added measures for determining teachers’ evaluation scores are not statistically sound; they lead to arbitrary scores for teachers that do not accurately reflect the quality of their teaching. Moreover, the lack of any transparency in the design and scoring of the tests makes it impossible to hold anyone publicly accountable for their flaws.

Schools with high numbers of low-performing students and untenured teachers double down on test prep at the expense of authentic intellectual and artistic enrichment, thus disproportionately widening, not shrinking, the achievement gap for low-income students.

Increasing the stakes for these tests, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposes, will do little to remove poorly performing teachers from the classroom. But it will potentially drive good teachers from the classroom and discourage promising candidates from becoming teachers.

To compare this misguided system to a healthy “vaccination,” as the chancellor of the State Board of Regents does, is highly deceptive.


The writer is a New York City public school history teacher.

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