Monday, September 22, 2014

The lessons on unethical education policies will continue until you cry out against them. The policies, that is.

I am asking your school board to join more than 120 school boards across the state - to pass a resolution calling on our representatives in Albany and Washington to stop high stakes testing for grades 3 through 8, to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as No Child Left Behind), and to develop other systems for public school accountability and evaluation.

Concerned citizens want high quality education for all students. We know our state needs policies and spending to solve problems of poverty and equity. That money is instead being spent on tests and supporting materials widely recognized as inadequate and unreliable measures of student learning and educator effectiveness. The intensive focus on achievement, simply defined as test performance, narrows our schools’ curriculum, taking time from a broad range of learning experiences that promote innovation, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking - everything our students need to thrive in a democracy and a global society and economy, let alone in college or careers.

Even more problematic, students leave schools, sometimes dropping out, with no love for learning. Excellent teachers leave schools when policies countermand what they know professionally about teaching and learning. The negative effects of this nationwide wave of high stakes standardized testing are especially bad for low income students, English language learners, those with disabilities, and children of color - the very students we have said we wanted to help! Indeed, we had begun several promising initiatives for these students when NCLB interrupted our progress. In the years since, NCLB and Race to the Top have denied much of what we wanted to accomplish.

We do not have to go along with what we know is wrong. We can ask our state and federal representatives to instead work toward a school culture that matches what research tells us about fostering engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought, and breadth of knowledge for our students.

I am leaving a copy of a possible resolution for discussion by the board. I urge you to adopt it, or some form of it, and send it on, adding your voice to many that are starting to break through the formidable wall of corporate interests. Corporations, which drive this testing movement, do not belong in schools where student well-being, rather than profit, is our motive.

Thank you for taking time for a message that is so important for our children and our future.

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