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Letters: Doubts about state's tests

Dr. John B. King, Jr., State education commissioner,

Dr. John B. King, Jr., State education commissioner, speaks at an event at Hofstra University. (Feb. 2, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

In this climate of accountability in education, I believe it is only fair to print the names of all those who signed off on the error-ridden final versions of the state exams ["Mistakes in NY tests," News, April 25].

The product was subpar, and the students and their families are entitled to know exactly who needs improvement in their jobs.

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said that with more than 30 exams, there are bound to be errors. I beg to differ. With only 30-odd exams, and with, in King's words, a "thorough review by test publishing staff, department staff, [and] panels of New York State educators," all of whom allegedly proofread the exams, there should be no errors.

Once the people are publicly identified, there should no reason for them to fret. I'm sure a professional development program can be put in place to improve their skills until they can be seen as satisfactory.

Cindy Paterno, Cold Spring Harbor

Editor's note: The writer is a retired teacher.

It is a shame that teacher evaluations are our governor's top priority, because nothing about this process will result in improved achievement for kids ["Cuomo: Teacher evals a priority," News, April 26].

The good that was to come from a state testing process was achieved years ago: common, clear expectations, heightened attention to the test and targeted staff development. Now that improvement has slowed, the threat to publicly humiliate and discharge a teacher whose students don't perform acceptably on one test over the course of 180 days offers only insanity as an approach to increasing student performance.

If teacher evaluations are the answer, then the problem must be that teachers have purposely been lazy, and now increasing an accountability process will result in teachers working hard. I would agree that is the case for some small percentage.

The real solutions to improve education are clearly politically unacceptable. First, institutions that train teachers have failed kids. They accept the lowest SAT performers of any profession, and they graduate professionals with no knowledge or background in learning theory and practices. I have hired 24 teachers in my role as a principal over 18 years, and none was adequately prepared for the job.

Also, the structure of the teacher's day fails kids. Teachers spend 81 percent of their day in front of a class, leaving them inadequate time for systemic study, data analysis, problem solving and preparation. Until the teacher day is revamped, the kind of learning and study needed for true improvement simply can't happen.

Parents have failed kids. Many students lack the structure and support to grow into disciplined, capable adults. In the last five years, I've had to chase kindergartners through the halls for constant swearing, refusal to work and lack of discipline.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said nothing about these problems, because they are politically deadly. Instead, it is his goal to increase the stress and pressure on teachers, the majority of whom are working hard to make up for inadequate professional training, broken families, increased disabilities, increased standards, increased paperwork, inadequate study time and an onslaught from the media that borders on harassment. Teachers are breaking under the stress, but the true losers are the children.

Elizabeth Garavuso, Hauppauge

Editor's note: The writer is a school principal.