2013-04-26 / Columnists

Slice of Life

by Beth Hanning

Since I am a high school English teacher, many people ask me if I am going to write about issues in education. I always say no, but I feel that after the past two weeks and the frustration from students, teachers and parents, I thought I should write about it.

Last summer, while speaking to my nephew, I asked him if he was excited about starting school. He replied, “No, because I have to take the state tests.” I thought that this was a really sad answer from such a young child. I always remember being excited to start school, even if by October I was dreaming of the ocean.

Some parents think the teachers put too much pressure on the children. I am sure that they do. If your job was on the line whether or not your students did well, you would put pressure on the children also.

However, I feel as a parent that the parents put the pressure on the children. While on the beach last summer one of the mothers from my daughter’s class asked me how Megan did on the state math test. I told her that I had not found out yet, and then I told her it did not matter. When I responded that I did not care I think she was taken aback by my response. Megan had already graduated from elementary school and I had already paid her first few months of tuition at Bishop Kearney. What impact would the state math test have on her entrance? She was already enrolled in algebra honors. She is doing quite well in algebra honors this year and she never received a coveted “4” on any of the state math exams. Her best year was sixth grade and I have to admit that secretly I was hoping for a “4.” That was the year the raw scale changed and Megan’s raw score would have been a “4” the previous year, but not that year! Oh well.

I also feel that when we are sending our young ones to Saturday school, we are telling them that five days a week is not enough to prepare for the exam. I am sure some children need the extra help, or tutoring, but I am 40 and I felt teaching Saturday school was torture on me. I can only imagine how a 3rd grader feels. Some people have responded to me when I say this: that to be competitive as a nation, we need to attend school more. Sorry, I disagree.

However, when the girls got to high school, I did become a bit more obsessed with the Regents. In high school, I think they can handle the pressure a bit more than a 3rd grader. Megan is about to be tutored in Living Environment (the new fancy name for biology) and I will be a lunatic about algebra. For those of you who do not know, the CUNY and SUNY schools are looking at Regents more than when we were in school. As of right now English and algebra are the two being examined on college applications. AND we do not even know how much longer math and English Regents will be given. The new Common Core tests are right around the corner.

I do not know what the answer is and I do not think I am an educational guru. I just wish our political leaders would stop using our children in an educational tug of war.

PS I wrote this with the intention of relaxing parents, but in the end I just stressed myself out thinking about Megan’s Regents!

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