One of the duties of the State Education Department is to make sure every school in New York is fulfilling its responsibility to deliver the best education possible to every child.
In order to do that, of course, standards have to be established so the department and the citizens of the state can be assured that goal is met. All schools not only must deliver the best education possible, they must deliver an equal education. A student in Manhattan should walk out of high school armed with the same education as a student in Lake Placid.
Testing can help demonstrate that students are getting the same information and are absorbing it at the same rate. Testing can also indicate whether the teachers are performing at the required level.
Few would argue with the notion that some testing is necessary. Otherwise, how would the state be able to certify that every school is doing an adequate job?
The trouble, though, is that many teachers — and a growing number of parents — believe the Education Department has gone overboard in its zeal. Many teachers have spoken out against such an extreme reliance on testing that their own uniqueness and creativity in the classroom have been compromised.
There is more to teaching, we strongly agree, than the sterile transfer of information from one person to another.
This year, educators were also concerned about testing being based on a national Core Curriculum that they had barely begun teaching. Test scores released last week show their concern was well placed: test scores showed an average pass rate statewide of just 30 percent, with many schools in our area not even reaching that. State Ed says that outcome was expected and will be used to establish a baseline for future gains.
In a recent Press-Republican article, reporter Ashleigh Livingston interviewed Chazy Central Rural School teacher Kathryn Brown, who is the latest in our area to speak out forcefully against the rigidity of the state mandates. “We must maintain our ability to laugh, to play, to work, to challenge,” she said.
The oppressive reliance on testing has not been the concern of just a few outspoken teachers. It has come from too many corners not to be taken seriously.
It seems as if there has been too little dialogue between the department, the teachers charged with fulfilling its objectives and the parents whose children are subjected to testing pressure.
State Ed should convene sessions throughout the state where honest, open — and open-minded — exchanges of ideas can take place. Those meetings should not be gripe sessions but determined attempts to resolve the obvious conflicts of opinion on testing.
The outcries have been too numerous and too sincere to ignore.
Quality education should be the product of the best ideas of all concerned.