In My Opinion

January 14, 2013

In My Opinion: Impact of testing on academic freedom

Much has been said, in recent months, about the significant increase in New York state testing and its negative impact on the students, particularly those in the elementary grades.

The driving forces behind all the testing are federal Race to the Top funds and an increased accountability for public schools. Evaluations of schools, teachers and building principals are all being hinged upon the testing results of students.

Ironically, all this testing bears no impact on student grades. As an educator for 34 years, I always took exception to “teaching for the test.” I did, however, embrace the practice of inspiring students to learn and engage in the higher thinking skills of analysis and written, as well as spoken, expression, all not required on standardized tests.

As a classroom teacher and later as building principal, I was provided the opportunity for academic freedom.

The magnitude of high-stakes testing today, in New York state’s public schools, has all but eliminated academic freedom for classroom teachers and their principals.

We can all share stories of those teachers who inspired us, as students, to learn and oftentimes made learning fun. They rewarded us to be imaginative, to think “out of the box” and provided us the opportunity to express ourselves in both writing and the spoken word.

Today’s teachers can ill afford the luxuries associated with academic freedom. They are largely evaluated on student-test-driven results and not on their qualities for the art of teaching (pedagogy).

Dr. Don Sternberg, a principal at Wantagh Elementary School in Wantagh, N.Y., wrote a letter of apology on Sept. 4, 2012, to all his students’ parents and/or guardians that went viral. He apologized for encouraging a school learning environment that “will be teaching students to be effective test takers, a skill that does not necessarily translate into critical thinking.” He also noted in his letter that excessive testing is “unhealthy for the students.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
In My Opinion
  • In My Opinion Follow Vt. lead on prescription drugs

    Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin recently called attention to a national crisis when he dedicated his entire State of the State message to address what he called Vermont's "full-blown heroin crisis," writes John Coppola of New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers Inc.

    March 12, 2014

  • In My Opinion: Rail companies must take action

    I write to commend emergency response officials in Essex County for taking a proactive approach to the increasing number of freight trains carrying crude oil through our communities on the Canadian Pacific line, as described in the Feb, 23 article, "Essex County developing disaster-response plans as rail traffic grows," writes Rep. Bill Owens.

    March 4, 2014

  • In My Opinion: Communal energy conservation urged

    Recently, several articles appeared in the Press-Republican about the City of Plattsburgh's electric rates and energy policies, writes SUNY Plattsburgh assistant professor Curt Gervich.

    March 3, 2014

  • In My Opinion: Support gave boost to broadcasting

    As many of you know, this is my 40th and final year of broadcasting Plattsburgh State Cardinal Hockey, writes WIRY broadcaster Ducky Drake.

    February 20, 2014

  • In My Opinion: Prison closures will increase danger

    In January, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision released its annual report on the state of New York's prisons, writes NYSCOPBA President Donn Rowe.

    February 18, 2014

  • In My Opinion: Everyone must commit to end smoking

    Smoking-related illnesses will cause 5.6 million children alive today to die prematurely unless smoking rates drop, the latest Surgeon General's Report says, write no-smoking advocates Glenn Pareira and Kendra Gertsch.

    February 12, 2014

  • In My Opinion: The right approach to youth sports

    Another youth basketball season is upon us, writes Town of Ellenburg Youth Director Chris Brooks. Local counties do a great job of organizing these leagues for our children to be able to participate and learn skills at a young age.

    January 8, 2014

  • In My Opinion: Fair evacuation plan needs review

    A year has come and gone with another great professional job done by our Clinton County Fair management, putting on its best yet entertainment.

    January 7, 2014

  • In My Opinion: New care models for aging population

    Our communities are experiencing a growing percentage of older residents, who are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to health-care decisions, according to the administrators of local nursing homes.

    December 24, 2013

  • In My Opinion: Respect diversity of gender November is Transgender Awareness Month across the United States -- a time to celebrate the diversity of gender that many Americans, and especially many New Yorkers, share.

    November 25, 2013