August 26, 2013

What do parents really want?

Earlier this month, the State Education Department released results from the first standardized tests tied to new Common Core learning standards.

As widely predicted, student test scores dropped dramatically, the result of new tests, far more challenging standards and the state’s rocky implementation which, in many instances, was so seriously flawed that students were tested on material they had not yet been taught.

Just as predictable were the hysterical headlines and doomsday cries from many, including the self-proclaimed “reformers” who see an opportunity to profit off public education.

Soon they will be unpacking their snake-oil remedies, claiming to speak for parents as they call for the firing of teachers, closing schools, creating “quick fix” charter schools and expanding so-called “school choice.”

The reality is, state test scores can be interpreted in many different ways, and the state has made clear that the results represent a re-setting of the bar — what it sees as a new baseline — and not a step backwards by students or teachers.

And, in reality, parents have already spoken, and they have spoken in ways quite different from what critics contend. Parents in Plattsburgh, the rest of the North Country and all of New York state have a clear understanding of what’s going on. They know what works in public education, and they know what’s needed.

At school board meetings, in letters and petitions, in forum after forum and in joining with educators at the nearly 20,000-strong One Voice United rally in Albany in June, parents loudly denounced the over-reliance on standardized testing. In its place, they called for a stronger investment in the time and tools needed to strengthen their own local schools.

 A new national poll validates the message we’ve been hearing in New York state.

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