Springtime used to make us think about warm weather, daffodils, sunshine, and baseball’s opening day. Now, educators associate springtime with standardized high-stress testing resulting in anxiety-ridden young children whose natural spirit of learning is being destroyed. To advocate for children, evening educational forums have been held all over Long Island for the past several months to educate community members about the plight facing students in public schools who are being tested at levels way above their cognitive abilities.
On Thursday, March 31, 2016 Tom Glenn (HCT President. parent, and educator), Lori Koerner (parent, adjunct professor at Dowling College, and educator), and Dr. David Ferrin (psychologist, CPSE Chair, adjunct professor at Dowling College, and Director of All About Kids) were invited to speak at an Educational Forum at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Public Library and shared their expertise and insights with a large audience comprised of parents and concerned community members.
Dr. Ferrin and Mrs. Koerner cautioned parents that although Newsday reported that students taking the upcoming state exams for grades 3-8 will have “unlimited time,” the exams are still designed by Pearson and developmentally inappropriate for children. With a lexile range typically 2 years above grade level, even the brightest students who aren’t used to failing will sit for hours staring in frustration at the test, unable to understand what’s being asked of them, while their teachers are not permitted to actively take their test away.
If Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia is so confident that this year’s state assessments are appropriate, why offer up a choice to parents informing them of their prerogative to “opt” their children out of the tests? Teachers are hoping for a halt to these tests until appropriate assessments are designed that would provide educators with immediate feedback in order to determine the next steps in differentiating instruction. We are concerned about the unintended consequences of these tests. As a result of the narrowed, fragmented curriculum geared to prepare students for these state assessments, children are leaving school with limited knowledge of arts, sciences, geography and history.
On a positive note, educators were heartened to hear Dr. Betty Rosa, new Education Chancellor, say, “If I were a parent and not on the Board of Regents, I would opt out of the high stakes tests at this time!”
Where do public education “reformers” send their children to school?
An interesting irony was pointed out about so-called “reformers” of public education who are foisting the “common core” curriculum on the “commoners” whose children attend public schools. Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel send their own children to the University of Chicago Laboratory School, whose “Mission Statement” is:
Why do these wealthy public education reformers believe that the average American child does not deserve the enriching Renaissance education that their own children are receiving in private schools which are exempt from the very standardized tests that they are forcing the public school children to endure?
Tom Glenn went on to explain that schools with high failure rates on these exams will face loss of local control that encompasses receivership and undermines collective bargaining agreements, which in turn take away educators' voices in standing up for their students. As shown in the documentary Education, Inc., the loss of control results in reformers "pulling the strings" on education policy by the placement of special interest candidates with a privatization agenda, on boards of education.
Vouchers play into this as well, since they siphon public funding out of public education. Public tax dollars that could have been used for much needed initiatives in public education are funneled instead into private/charter schools that have little or no oversight with regards to special education law and policy and ENL learners. The disregard for the needs of all children who attend public schools is appalling.
How can we turn the tide?
The best way to make sure that our voices are heard is to get out and VOTE in the upcoming NY State primary on Tuesday, April, 19th and then again on November 8, 2016 for the U.S. President. This is a crucial election since the next president could possibly appoint as many as four Supreme Court Justices, which could determine the course of public education and unions for many years to come.