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Serious debate needed on high-stakes testing

I am glad State Education Commissioner John King Jr. has rescheduled Common Core information meetings. But I am not sure the new format is an improvement or a barrier to real dialogue with parents, teachers and community members. With a state legislator as moderator and a politician-appointed Regents board member in support, this looks more like a political charade than an educational forum.

Serious issues surround high-stakes testing, which take the place of evidence-based lessons with appropriate student assessments. A debate format adding a collegiate teacher educator from a local university or college and a teacher association representative would provide a more comprehensive overview of the state initiative. Interaction with parents, teachers and community members could follow the debate.

Since 1989, as an education grants consultant, I’ve witnessed many state-mandated changes. Some appeared ill-conceived, not only to me as a former public school teacher, but also to active educators. For example, how many community members know the Education Department “standards” are actually “outcomes”? The adoption of these “standards” occurred in the early 1990s at a time when outcomes-based education was touted as the next best thing even though it was not much researched. When the frenzy over outcomes started, a well-placed BOCES staff person told me that State Education Department staff used word processors to change the word “outcomes” in their draft plan to “standards.” What a slick trick. The frenzy was occurring because outcomes-based education was not a proven education strategy.

We should listen to each other, learn what strategies are proven and evidence-based, then move forward to provide the best education for all our children. Isn’t our future at stake?

Lynda Stephens

Buffalo