To the editor:
I believe that children should be tested to ensure that they are actually learning what is taught in school. I believe teachers and students should receive the results of these tests at a time and in a form that allows them to improve teaching and learning. I believe these tests should be designed by educators who know what is developmentally appropriate for each grade level and not by corporations looking to make a profit. I believe the tests should assess how well students have learned curriculum created to help them succeed in life; I do not believe curriculum should be developed merely in order to help students succeed on the tests. Because none of these things is true of the state English language arts (ELA) and math tests for grades 3 to 8, I am refusing to let my fourth-grade daughter take the tests.
This is not an easy decision. Not testing means patching together child care, which is inconvenient and potentially expensive. The state also threatens to punish the district if fewer than 95 percent of students take the tests each year for two years. I don't want to hurt this district or my daughter's school, but it is unfair for the state to hold us or the school hostage in this way. (On the other hand, we have heard off the record from district officials and others that the cost to our district would be minimal.)
Currently, a large corporation, Pearson, is making millions of dollars because they have convinced New York state to buy their testing materials. Because schools want to do well on the tests, they also buy Pearson's teaching materials. It is a pyramid scheme in which what our kids learn is built on what will make a profit for a single corporation. Is this what should be driving education in our schools? Shouldn't it be the desire to give our kids the reading, writing and thinking skills they need to succeed in life and to contribute to their world?
The elementary school day has been completely reshaped to teach only the things that the tests are measuring - tests written by Pearson. The day used to have time for art and music, even in the regular classrooms, not just in specials. It used to have time for science and social studies - more than just 40 minutes every other day, only beginning in fourth grade. Now the day is almost entirely English language arts (ELA) and math because "it's going to be on the test," and even ELA has changed from creating poems and stories to composing the kind of essays students in college write.
It is time for us to take school back from corporations and bureaucrats who want to create cookie-cutter children. It is time for us to decide what we want our children to learn and then give our highly qualified teachers the freedom to teach it. This is why, when the tests begin on April 16, my child won't be there. Will yours?