To All my Fellow New York State Educators:
Just close your eyes for a minute and picture this (I know you will be able to relate)... As I walked throughout our building today I felt like I had been run over by a bus - several times. I was feeling tired, frustrated and defeated. During my visits to the classrooms and learning spaces, I watched our staff members walk around and everyone clearly looked stressed, anxious and emotionally drained. As if that weren't enough, our kids were crying, throwing up and visiting the Nurse's Office in droves this week! Why you ask? Did we lose a valued member of our community? No! Were our bodies taken over by mean, cranky aliens? No! The reason stress, anxiety and frustration permeated our building this week was because our children (with us alongside them) endured (or suffered through) three days of New York State English Language Arts Common Core Testing!
So, technically we are not supposed to talk or write about the tests (we have been threatened with having our licenses revoked if we do so) but this is what I have to say... in what other area of our lives do we expect 8, 9, 10 and 11 year olds to sit quietly for almost two hours just reading and writing without a break for three days in a row? Sitting quietly for two hours is hard enough for any person but to have to read long passages and then try and answer questions that are clearly set up to trick the children (for THREE DAYS in a row) is UNFAIR, UNNECESSARY and RIDICULOUS! We want the children to read a text and then show a thorough understanding? FINE - I am all for it because our kids are amazing readers and writers and we should assess those skills! But, at least give them questions or opportunities to show their understandings and new knowledge in meaningful, engaging and age appropriate ways. Don't ask them to describe which paragraph BEST supports this, that or the other... who reads for those purposes? NOT ME! And guess what, I turned out ok (I think) and in the end, I was both college and career ready! I graduated from college (first person in my family to do so), I am currently pursuing my doctorate and I have a job that I love! Did I need the Common Core State Standards or a high stakes test to meet with success? NO! Honestly, I probably would have failed the tests this week but not because I am not a good reader or writer but because I don't have the stamina or attention to focus for such extended periods of time!
The fact that Dr. King (New York State Commissioner of Education) thinks that these tests will address the problems in our schools is comical! How would he know? His children do not attend public schools and they are not sitting for these high stakes tests that he promotes and stands behind! He himself spent very little time in NY public schools. Yet, from his outside view and somewhat biased perspective, he is going to tell us how to fix our schools! How can someone claim to be able to fix our schools without spending time INSIDE our schools and trying to get to the root cause of the problem? I dont know about you but if my medical doctor wanted to diagnose and remedy me just by looking at me from the outside, that would be my last visit to that doctor - in fact, I would advocate to have his license revoked!
Here is the bottom line - this whole experience angers me as a parent, educator and advocate for kids who has devoted most of his adult life to doing what is best for children! I am angry because I do not believe in the supposed crisis in the world of public education today - this crisis is being generated by politicians, commissioners of education and the media and I don't think it is rooted in facts or educationally sound research! Are there issues in our schools? ABSOLUTELY! Do we need to fix the many educationally related problems that exist in pockets of this country? YES! So, if "they" really want to fix the crisis in our educational system, then they must address the issues of race, class and segregation - those are the problems that the Common Core State Standards and these high stakes tests will NEVER fix! The only results that will occur after giving these tests are a greater educational divide, a deflated morale among many educators and children whose self-esteem and image will be changed forever. So, my question remains... How Will These Tests Help Improve the Educational Crisis?