April 23, 2013

Parent-Faculty Alliance eyes education reform

SARANAC LAKE — Parents here gathered to charter a plan for education reform.

During last week’s standardized testing, some 54 students refused or were removed from the high-stakes testing process at Saranac Lake Central School.

But the strike against standardized tests is not the end goal for reform.

A grassroots effort fostered by the Saranac Lake Parent Faculty Education Alliance seeks long-term solutions to top-down standards they feel put undue pressure on students and school budgets, while reducing the value of their teachers’ skills.


Don Carlisto, who teaches seventh grade at Petrova Middle School, is also co-president of the Saranac Lake Teachers Association.

He helped organize a showing of the film “Race to Nowhere,” a documentary that chronicles the effects of “canned” education. Cited as issues in the film are stress-related illness, an impetus toward cheating and even suicide among teens.

The growing movement toward widespread education reform is supported by New York State United Teachers, Carlisto said.

And lawmakers are closing in on legislation to support it.

“Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) introduced a bill (recently) to force the state to audit the costs of standardized testing on schools,” he said.

“She introduced another bill that would prevent standardized testing in schools for other than diagnostic testing of students in grades K through 2.”


Pulling students from test sessions here sent a message, one the School Board accepted and responded to with a resolution calling for federal and state reform of testing rules.

But the message in “Race to Nowhere,” produced three years ago in California, left parents nearly speechless.

Nancy Bernstein was one of several parents who obtained rights to show the film.

“We’re interested not only in de-emphasis in standardized testing but also in education reform,” she told the group of about 50 gathered at Petrova Elementary School’s auditorium for the recent screening.

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