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Schools must revise grade level concept

As a retired educator, I appreciate Donn Esmonde’s recent column about the rankings of schools by a local business publication. He is right on the mark on so many levels. I find it interesting that the public seemingly accepts a business report on schools before listening to their districts.

Part of the problem is that schools do not do a good enough job telling their story. In addition, there are other reasons this publication’s report is irrelevant. The first is that the tests given by New York State are not valid judgments of kids, teachers or schools. They do not give the type of information they purport. The results may tell some of what a child knows, but little of what he was taught. These tests do not give individual learning profiles of students. They shallowly test a wide variety of learning indicators, but few deep enough to give a school enough information to improve.

Schools do not receive the test questions back to use to find some trends. The tests are created to give a range of scores, rather than information about student learning. Both New York State and the publishers of the tests indicate that they should not be singularly used to make any decisions or conclusions about students or teachers. However, interest groups continue to do so.

It is interesting that, in a day when schools are under the microscope, no one even questions the validity or use of such tests. In closing, I cannot understand why, when technology can give schools the tools to both teach and assess individual students’ strengths and gaps, we still cling to the grade level concept. This is an outdated model.

Schools are not afraid of assessments. They just want them to be user-friendly to students, teachers and parents.

Robert E. Gallagher

North Tonawanda