What we witnessed on Long Island last month -- tens of thousands of parents opting their children out of government-mandated high-stakes testing -- will, hopefully, change the course of education for the better ["Guv reacts to opt-out criticism," News, April 29].
This isn't the first time that parental pressure has changed the course of education for the better. In the 1950s, it was parents who insisted that schools use the more effective phonics approach to reading rather than the "whole word" method. In the 1970s, parents led the charge for special education. The big difference between those movements and the opt-out movement is that now, parents who want better educational outcomes for their children are fighting against the government.
Make no mistake, the New York State math and English Language Arts tests are about politics, not better educational outcomes for students. Their continued use will not lead to better outcomes, and using the results to judge teachers will not improve teaching.
If one wanted to develop tests that would actually help students achieve better outcomes, one would start by developing tests that were diagnostic and teased out each student's strengths and weaknesses. With the state tests, there is no way to differentiate between students who have anxiety, poor decoding skills, difficulty understanding the text, difficulty interpreting the questions or lack a frame of reference for the passages.
Heidi Reichel, Huntington
Editor's note: The writer is an educational consultant, providing direct support to parents and students.
The real problem is that Newsday continues to refuse to print the full story. These tests are pitched to a level that is far beyond the average student's ability to succeed, regardless of preparation.
Moreover, if a student does equally well two years in a row, he or she is deemed to not have made any progress. Therefore, such a perfect student would count against a teacher on his or her evaluation.
As any good educator will tell you, tests are given to guide instruction. By seeing what a student does or does not understand, teachers can differentiate and guide students accordingly. But on the state tests, teachers only see an overall score long after their students have moved to the next grade. They cannot even see the specific strengths and weaknesses of their incoming students.
Clearly these tests are designed to be punitive to teachers.
Robert Gerhardt, Huntington Station
Editor's note: The writer is a fifth-grade teacher.