Friday, March 6, 2015

Please Opt In

There. I have said it. And although it goes against every fiber of my deep-seated, rebellious, rabble-rousing nature, it needs to be said.

Last week, our Board of Education, parents, teachers and administrators, participated in a well-attended book chat to discuss National Public Radio’s Digital Education Reporter Anya Kamenetz’s The Test – Why Our Schools Are Obsessed With Standardized Testing But You Don’t Have To Be.

We’ve heard over and over again from teachers who are working tirelessly to preserve their practice while they continue to create classrooms where children still love learning. The new requirements of the Common Core are hard, for teachers and kids. But they are doing it.

Is the bar high? You bet! Are the kids reaching for it? Like champs!

Dobbs Ferry is a unique, diverse village, and we value our small schools. Every kid counts. Every teacher counts. Our community is only as strong as the reputation of our schools. Rightly or wrongly, families moving from places near and far look at standardized testing scores and draw conclusions about our schools.

Students who are “opted out” of testing by their parents diminish the excellent work being done each and every day. It unfairly penalizes teachers whose end-of-year evaluations are weighted by the performance of their students. Students coming to school and “drawing pictures” with the bubble dots in a show of defiance only hurts them and their teachers. This past year, we have scrambled to provide support services to students who need them, but were deemed ineligible because we did not have standardized test scores due to their “opting out.”

Parents and educators must continue to put pressure on their legislators in Albany to abandon the current standardized testing “road to nowhere” and support the letter writing campaigns being promulgated by groups such as the New York Suburban Consortium for Public Education. Teacher evaluations tied to the performance of students on standardized tests, in their current form, must be halted by Governor Cuomo now.

In our discussion last week, our Board of Education and community made it clear that the results of student performance on standardized tests must be but one piece of information used by teachers for formative assessment purposes.

In Dobbs Ferry, it is important to remember that student success is ultimately measured by the number of pupils who successfully access the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in High School and exemplify the Learner Profile skills. These figures have increased dramatically in recent years and our IB Middle Years Program (MYP) will further impact this important measure. Our students successfully gain admission to the finest colleges and universities in the nation. Our graduates are among the most successful anywhere.

Let’s find our own way to “swim against the tide.” Support our schools, our teachers, and our students by “opting in” to the NY State tests this year.