2005-07-29 / Columnists

The Progressive

Testing, Testing, Testing
By John Paul Culotta

During the hot, hazy, humid days of summer it is difficult to think about the education of our young Americans. The No Child Left Behind Program initiated by President Bush that gives states and local cities and towns mandates to achieve excellence in education is laudatory. At the same time, the program is not financed properly. Many localities cannot meet the standards set because of budgetary restraints. Standardized testing is the benchmark used to see if goals are met.

This year, we will see our mayor campaign for reelection on the platform that the school population of this city has been well served by his administration. Test results show an improvement. Standardized tests will be the criteria to judge if the educational system works. Unfortunately, it appears or educational system is still not giving an adequate education to the majority of students in this city. I doubt the situation is different in other major urban areas. Rural schools in this country do not often meet standards. A few weeks ago the state Board of Regents set the criteria to obtain a Regents diploma higher. The question is: Are we truly serving our children with all emphasis on standardized tests?

The children who enter school today are a population that has been stimulated by cable television, the Internet, e-mail, video games, and indulgent parents. Schools need to examine what will work with this population. Many children come to school with parents that only have a rudimentary level of English. Some students do not speak English. Other children suffer from dysfunctional family life caused by poor living standards, homelessness, disease, and poverty. How can child study when they sleep on a relative’s couch, are hungry, live in buildings without heat in the winter, or suffer from learning disabilities? Our educational goals will not be meet without social justice.

Dyslexia is a serious learning problem. Some experts say one out five children suffer from this learning disability. Our educational system has not addressed the issue of the different styles of learning that are needed for different individual students. Some learn trough tactile methods of teaching. Others learn through other methods. How can our school system adjust the method of teaching to serve all students?

Our reliance on standardized testing as a goal post to judge an educational system is not sufficient. We need to address the social and economic barriers to successful learning. This will require a commitment to social justice and sacrifice for the elite of the nation. Educational funding will need to based more equitably. Social programs that combat homelessness and economic necessity can also result in a better educated school population.. Corporations need to be encouraged to pay a wage that meets an adequate standard of living for their employees. Our health care delivery will need to be reviewed and made more efficient. We are asking our teachers to do the impossible. We are asking children to meet standards when the method used to teach may not be appropriate or adequate. Our world has changed and we need to research what will accomplish the education goals we are setting.

After defense more public dollars are spent nationwide on education. Remember all levels of government spend money on this essential government service. Many also educate their children with their own funds. Education is big business.

The progressive contends the taxpayer is not getting enough bang for the buck. Testing can help us achieve a better-educated society. It cannot be the only way to measure results. Children who are stimulated at school and are learning with methods suited to their individual learning style can accomplish more. Social justice will guarantee an educated workforce of the future. Investment in educational research may give insights to develop a school system that meets our young people’s needs. Paying teachers a decent salary and negotiating in a fair way with their union demonstrate respect for teachers.

Mayor Bloomberg needs the teachers to accomplish any improvements in the system. He demonstrates his disregard for them when he fails to negotiate in good faith.

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