March 2013
January 01, 1900

Practitioners offer classroom view to 'tell it like it is'

Thousands and thousands of practitioners around the state are using NYSUT's "Tell It Like It Is" online vehicle to tell State Education Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents that enough is enough: It's unrealistic to move so quickly to testing students on Common Core, and the state's obsession with standardized testing must stop.

Educators are telling their personal stories about how the obsession with testing is shortchanging students, their colleagues and their own children and grandchildren.

They also are offering thoughtful and responsible solutions to better address the needs of our students. A recurring theme: Instead of spending money on test administration and wasting time with test prep, let's focus on ways to improve education and make school a place students want to be.

Here's a sampling of members' commonsense solutions:

MORE TIME NEEDED

"We need help to implement all these changes.

We need comprehensive staff development on Common Core and time to bring it into our classrooms.
Just give us more time!"

"Evaluate students on the whole child, not just performance on one test."

"Allow teachers to gather documents throughout the school year to show student growth. This not only eliminates the stress of a high-stakes exam, it helps demonstrate what the students are actually learning."

HANDS-ON MATERIALS

"I often wonder how extraordinary it would be to take the money poured into state assessments and use it to update classroom libraries, purchase hands-on materials, reduce class sizes and add some after-school enrichment/remediation."

"Ask for parent/student participation in teacher evaluations. They know better than anyone how hard their teachers are working for them."

"Students need to have access to their school library.

They need to be able to explore, become independent learners in a non-threatening environment.

Libraries need to be staffed with certified library media specialists the entire day. A school library should never be closed."

"Spend less money on formal assessments and more on collaboration between teachers. Nations that rank high in achievement do this. (Japanese Lesson Study, for example)."

"Give struggling schools funding and resources, not cuts."

"Increase funding to high-poverty districts for after-school tutoring and transportation home after tutoring."

"Please bring back school social workers, psychologists and counselors ... our kids need more support services!"

"We need practice questions for the new tests that show what's expected under Common Core — the depth of knowledge, wording, point values and exemplary solutions. These should be posted online for parents, students and teachers to examine."

GET 'REAL' WITH ASSESSMENTS

"There are so many alternative assessments that provide richer, deeper, more complete information about what students are learning and can do.
We need portfolios, writing journals, benchmark reading assessments and end-of-year projects. Let students and teachers showcase performance in an authentic, individual and much more meaningful way."

"Teachers need aides in the classroom to help monitor small groups and help support our neediest children."

"Provide alternative testing, including portfolios and presentations. This is a far better measurement of student ability. Allow target-based instruction that is individualized for each student for greater achievement. If youmust have statewise assessments, then allow varied ways to test that appeal to many learning styles, not just mathematical and linguistic. Costly, true, but more effective in the long run and will produce a more critically thinking and creative future. The compulsion now to teach everyone how to fill in bubbles is simply robotic."

"Let's provide extensive early intervention for at-risk learners so they begin their education on level."

"We need to bring back more vocational education to involve all learners. We need to ensure that all students can communicate verbally and in written form... that they are skilled in math and science so they can make decisions that will affect them in today's world. What we need to concentrate on is preparing students to be life-long learners no matter what their individual career choice is. Not all students need to go to college, but all need to be educated to make the right choice and be prepared for that choice. We need to prepare our students to be active members of our society, to the best of their ability."

"Make sure state assessments are at an appropriate reading level."

"Offer different diplomas for trade programs and for students with profound learning disabilities"

LONGER SCHOOL YEAR

"We need a longer school year, more time within the school day with the students, and parents who are involved with their child's learning ..."

"Teachers need to be equipped with the proper training in the use of technology in their classrooms and given the tools to move forward with this new approach to education."

INVEST IN EARLY CHILDHOOD LEARNING

"Did you know that Poughkeepsie has only a half-day kindergarten program? That's criminal. And we have a waiting list for pre-K? That's absurd. Look at the research: Money spent on early intervention is far more beneficial than the money spent on excessive testing. In reality, excessive testing just puts money into the pockets of publishers, politicians and lobbyists. "

"Trust the teachers to do what they were trained to do."

"We have to find a balance between testing and real world assessment for our children. Allow local educators to have a larger say in how we measure student progress. The projects we design have STEM and Career Technical Education imbedded in each assignment and the students are able to make connections much more authentically than in the arena of standardized tests. We have to find a better way to assess students and prepare them for the workforce of the future."

"I beg you to take the time and the money spent on creating these tests, put it back into the classroom and hire more teachers to reduce class size. Students learn better when in an environment that has fewer students."

"Focus on improving learning conditions for students."

"Give more value to science and social studies, which are being pushed to the wayside."

"Students should be tested on their individual academic levels. It's insane that students who function on a first- or second-grade level are given tests on a fourth-grade level. "

"Invest in peer coaching and mentoring."

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

"As controversial as it may be, it is time to invest in parenting, housing, health care, etc., OUTSIDE of school so there is good community support for the children. Not all learning happens within the four walls of school."

"Grant districts the funds to focus on professional development and collegial learning. We could share resources and best practices locally and regionally."

"Let's have some teacher conference days devoted to sharing our best lessons with each other."

USE NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFICATION AS PATHWAY FOR EVALUATION

"Please use National Board Certification as a pathway for evaluation. This process is a proven model that improves teaching and learning. Not using it tells teachers that 'voluntary' efforts to improve learning are not valued. If you expect students to have choice in their learning, you should expect that teachers should have the same opportunities..."

"Vocational tracks can be a great way for students to develop marketable skills."

"Offer more choices for students to pursue what they are interested in, not what we tell them to do."

"Have teachers observed and evaluated by fellow teachers who know what needs to happen in the classroom."

"Start trusting your teachers and administrators!"