A teacher shares his submission to
the NY Times, on what he calls their “poorly written and researched editorial which shows they have no clue about the purpose of the Opt Out Movement, among other things in education.”
“I’m a Teacher, and as such, must respond to today’s editorial in the Times, “Opting Out of Standardized Tests Isn’t the Answer.” In this era of high stakes testing, anyone taking a position against these tests could be subject to dire consequences.
The Times Editorial Board has much to learn about testing and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), both of which are lauded in the editorial. The Times falsely claims that annual testing, especially in grades 3-8, “could damage educational reform.” Further, the Times also provides a misleading statement about the effect of this parental boycott on CCSS, stating “The standards offer the best hope for holding school districts accountable for educating all students, regardless of race or income.” These arguments show a complete lack of understanding of the purpose of the Opt-Out movement, which is simple: as parents, teachers, and administrators,we want a return to learning and less testing, and are not encouraging opting out of high stakes testing due to the tests “difficulty” as the Times proclaims.
First, let’s take a look at the Smarter Balanced Academic Consortium (SBAC) tests. Students as young as 8 are forced over the course of two weeks to take tests in Language Arts and Math that total nine hours of lost instructional time, and this doesn’t account for the time lost due to preparation for the tests. Now, compare that to a 16 year-old taking the SAT who completes the test in one sitting totaling three hours. At least our juniors and seniors know understand why they have to take the SAT; the college of their choice may require it for admission. However, for hundreds of thousands of third grade to eighth grade students in New York and around the country, the purpose of taking the SBAC is dubious, at best. For instance, what is exactly being assessed, and why does it take up so much valuable learning time? I don’t have an answer for the former as the publisher of the SBAC test refuses to release test items so its validity can be studied. And, as for the time it takes to assess, well, there is no reason for this high stakes testing. All parents and teachers will get back from a scorer hired on Craig’s List (by the way, Pearson, the test publisher doesn’t require a degree or experience in education to qualify) is a score and a ranking, nothing else. This is totally pointless information as scores and rankings do not provide valid information on where the child succeeded or needs to improve in the area allegedly assessed. And, it is also meaningless because even though students have to take these tests between March and May online, it is not until August, at the earliest, that this useless data is released. As a teacher, I would be negligent in my duty if it took me five months to assess my students ability.
Second, the Times argument that opting out of testing would damage the so-called “educational reform movement.” Teachers, parents, administrators, and students would cheer the moment this happens because it means learning, not testing, will be the focus of the classroom. This “reform” movement is led by billionaires such as Bill Gates and anti-public school advocates desperate for their 15 minutes of fame, such as Campbell Brown. No one involved in this movement has a grasp on the issues and challenges facing public schools, their reason for involvement is simple, they want a chunk of the hundreds of billions spent on education by local, State, and the Federal governments. When Gates and other “reformers” walk into a classroom and look into the eyes of a child, they see dollar signs, not a child who is willing and able to learn.
That leads to my last point, the Times support of the Common Core. What the Times failed to include is that the Core was neither vetted or tested. In addition, there were no educators or childhood development experts on the panel writing these flawed Standards, however, there were quite a few hedge fund managers and others equally clueless about education and learning. CCSS was forced upon the States by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who for the first time in history, told States in 2009 that federal aid to education would only be available for those States who adopted these Standards. Mind you, this was a time when States were literally hemorrhaging money caused by the Bush Great Recession of 2008, and it’s likely that those hedge fund managers on the CCSS panel had a role in crippling our economy. Furthermore, CCSS was adopted in States not by representatives of the people like a State Legislature, but by two people, the governor and his/her Education Commissioner. Millions were dumped by Gates to sweeten the pot and force these invalid Standards on schools. Would the Times approve of these tactics if billionaires and non-experts were to impose their unproven agenda for journalism? I think not. And, therein lies the problem. As educators we are experts at what we do, which is to instill a love for learning for our children. Billionaires see an untapped market that they can get their greedy talons on. Our voices in what we do have been silenced, and has been overtaken by those whose motives and expertise demand investigation, not the adulation that the Times presents in its poorly written and researched editorial. The Times used to be the source for news, but as this misleading editorial demonstrates, the Gray Lady has lost her credibility.”
Of course they didn’t publish his comment. More teachers need to speak out.