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Education reform is too focused on testing


The Madrid-Waddington teacher who says the new standardized tests are not appropriate measures for fourth-grade students shines light on the tip of the reform iceberg that threatens to sink good education.

These tests are the result of our wise national and state politicians using their supreme knowledge of how to make education better deciding that more tests can make students do better and motivate teachers to teach the way they should have been doing all along.

For 30 years we have experienced a tsunami of educational reform experiments, led by politicians who see the political gain but lack knowledge of what works in education.

The easiest way for a politician to “reform education” is to attack the teachers, test the kids and show up to read one morning in a third-grade classroom, all the while reducing educational resources because we spend more than somebody else.

They wrap this in the pretentious garb of national security and status, saving us from the tyranny of teachers unions, and making sure our kids can make it in a global economy. The only ones doing well are the test companies hired to produce tests that often miss the mark and, by the time the tests are valid, another political reform movement begins. Are we better off than we were 30 years ago?

In China, recent educational discussion there was about how the lockstep Chinese education stifled the curiosity, creativity and thinking skills that they saw in American education. Rates of depression and suicide of their students also worried them. They wished some of our educational system was in theirs. This fall, a new Chinese school installed the American system of education.

We have to be doing something right, although we wouldn’t know it from the test mongering and teacher bashing by our governmental leaders. It’s time to stop spending millions on redundant tests that give a false picture of good education, take away class time and cause teachers to teach to the test rather than to individual students.

All this money and time could be spent on improving programs, teacher training, smaller classes, more extracurricular programs, additional support for students in danger of dropping out before graduation — things that make our students curious, resilient, compassionate, competitive, thoughtful. In other words, not good test takers but what we really need — good leaders of tomorrow.

Briggs McAndrews

Sackets Harbor

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