On a family visit to my parents, I picked up the Sunday Syracuse Post Standard. In the “Commentary” section there was an editorial that dominated the page and truly did serve as more of an advertorial for the test and punish camp. It is linked to below, but one of the first things I noticed when I went to the Post’s online version was the difference in the titles:
Print version: “Opting out made a point-now take the tests”
Online version: “Opt-out movement made it’s point, now it must make peace with the tests”
Forget my wondering who would have the gall to take such a condescending tone- someone was clever enough to depersonalize and soften the title for the online version. But this piece still puts the nail in its own logic-coffin by ending with:
Parents, you’ve made your point. The state has heard you. Now it’s time to turn your focus to help your kids rise to the higher standards. But we won’t know how well the kids are doing unless you let them take the exams.
Let’s look at this more closely:
Parents you’ve made your point – If that were true, this piece may have read, and ended differently
The state has heard you – True…but they don’t really want to deal with what they are hearing and why. The testing push is the state’s way of avoiding their responsibilities in other areas.
Now it’s time to turn your focus to help your kids rise to the higher standards- This requires suspending common sense and giving into the premise that more focus on tests is the best way to make this happen. Speaking as a parent and a teacher, I can tell you that is not true.
But we won’t know how well kids are doing unless you let them take the exams – To begin with, see my response to the previous statement. Then, tell me who “we” is. I know how well my kids are doing.
Anyways…I’m a little more disappointed in my free press than usual. Below is my response to the paper.
Opting out made a point, but Post: you’re not getting it
The August 16 Syracuse Post used the “In Our Opinion” piece for the purpose of admonishing parents who are demonstrating the critical thinking and civic awareness that our new standards are supposed to promote. The position taken in that piece is one in line with a group that is apparently afraid of both. We have already seen years go by with honest discussion avoided by education leaders short on experience in education but long on opinions regarding what is wrong. Their solutions usually include corporate contracts for testing and consequence for schools. During the passage of those years, parents have had to tolerate listening tours that really weren’t, and the continued mantra of praise for data collection and for tests with little transparency and of questionable quality. Those passing years might coincide with those seeing the number of test refusals growing from a handful to 200,000 or more parents choosing to exercise their authority in this way. So despite familiar arguments in favor of high-stakes testing, it would be difficult to dismiss the growing number of aware parent/citizens-especially with a weak editorial scolding.
Tests are necessary, but should only be a part of a holistic approach to a learner’s educational programming and opportunities. “High stakes” should apply to all those responsible for providing the experiences and opportunities for a learner today that will create the effective citizen of tomorrow. Consider the words of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, in an interview with the Albany Times Union on August 17th:
“I really think that we shouldn’t be looking at education alone anymore or mental health alone anymore or poverty alone anymore. I think that we have to look at the total family structure and see why it is that students are going into school not prepared for these challenges. And I think a lot of it has to do with what’s going on at home and their neighborhoods. Even super teacher may not be able to get through to a student whose life outside of school has issues.”
Testing should not be given top priority. It is the cheap seats, the easy answer-a way of placing artificial value on people instead of demonstrating that you actually value people. They are also a way for our leaders to avoid their responsibilities. We need tests as a way to inform instruction- yes, but there are far more important things we could be doing and effective funding and programming choices we could be making to prepare future citizens. That growing number of aware and involved parents understands that. Appointed education officials, elected policymakers and editorialists would be wise to come from another angle.