June 08, 2013

Superintendents, principals and parents say: Learning first!

Author: Deb Ward
Source: NYSUT Communications
laurence spring
Caption: Superintendent Laurence Spring, Schenectady School District, says policymakers need to “hear this loudly and clearly,” that learning must be first and foremost in public schools.

Superintendents, principals and parents speaking to thousands at the “One Voice United” rally have unique perspectives yet share a common theme: It’s time to return the focus to learning, not testing.

Superintendents and principals describe a grim climate imposed by the state’s testing obsession that forces them to serve as “police” rather than the instructional leaders they entered the profession to be. 

amparo sandler

Mom Amparo Sandler of Central Islip (pictured above), a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, shares how her grandson has been swamped with tests and test prep.

“We have to stress to our school districts how important early education is,” she says. “Why is it that our educational system is broken? This is not a damn game show.”

crawford

Dr. Mark Crawford (pictured above), West Seneca School District, emphasizes the importance of keeping the focus on the whole child.

He opposes the current form of standardized tests for several reasons, saying the feedback loop is broken and instructional time is jeopardized. Standardized tests can have a role but only if they "give clear and useful feedback in a timely way,” he says.

He lists the many qualities that cannot be measured by numbers, including TLC, the “special acts of kindness and support” so many principals and teachers provide every day.

“The current regime of testing is flawed,” he says. “It defies common sense.

Of particular concern, he says, is the release of student data without parental consent to inBloom, New York City Department of Education’s data sharing provider.

Superintendent Laurence Spring, Schenectady School District, says policymakers need to “hear this loudly and clearly,” that learning must be first and foremost in public schools.

The current reform movement misses the point, he says, because the reasons for the learning gaps are “not teachers, not schools: it’s poverty.” In Schenectady, the state provides only 54 percent of the aid the law says the district should receive, despite the city’s high poverty rate. This year the district trimmed $9 million from its budget, resulting in the loss of 100 staff who provided direct services to students.

mckenna

Principal John McKenna (pictured above), Tonawanda City School District, thanks NYSUT for organizing the rally: “It’s great to see the state united for this purpose,” McKenna says.

“The current reform agenda that is causing so much harm can’t last,” he says, calling it a setup for failure. “Teachers are becoming micro-managed, demoralized; they feel set up for failure,” he says. “We can’t do that to the art of teaching.”

Administrators, he says, are inundated with massive amounts of paperwork, forcing them to police staff, rather than serve as instructional leaders.

“Funds should be going, not to Pearson, but to our children,” he says.