Letter: State exams harm teacher creativity

Students study with their laptop computers in in Students study with their laptop computers in in this file photo. (Sept. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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State exams stunt my creative energies as a teacher and interfere with teaching what I value ["Venting over testing," News, April 7]. Learning should connect to real life experiences and the natural world.

My fifth-grade students study salt marsh ecology. Our field trip to the Oceanside Marine Nature Study Area leaves indelible memories that serve as background knowledge for enhanced reading comprehension. Should I discontinue it to provide more time for test prep?

Another trip to a local park serves as the basis of a mapmaking project. Our study integrates mathematics, history, writing, environmental science, art and geography. Would time be better spent drilling multiple-choice questions?

Now that assessments are tied to my evaluation, the stakes couldn't be higher. I can influence, but not control, how well students do on an exam. Teacher evaluations shouldn't be tied to test results, because teachers can't control how individuals do on state exams any more than a physician can control how healthy his or her patients will be. Instead, exams should be used for diagnostic purposes.

Moreover, statements by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sound ill-informed and contribute to demoralizing the profession. How can we expect the public to respect teachers when our elected officials make incendiary, ill-conceived comments?

Teachers will do their best when they are trusted and supported. Students will do their best when their motivation comes from within. Sustained academic progress will come to our state and to our country when American culture evolves to truly embrace the value of education.

Guy Jacob, Valley Stream

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