It doesn't look like The Times could find anybody to defend the Obama/Duncan policy.
Question: Does Brent Staples, New York Times editorial writer on education, read the Letters section?]
Published in New York Times
Re Dangling $4.3 Billion, Obama Pushes States to Shift on Education (front page, Aug. 17):
When President Obama was elected, many parents and educators had hoped to see a lessening of the reliance on standardized testing to assess student progress and address the issue of equity.
For many years, there has been a terrible distortion of educationĂ˘€™s promise, as everything besides reading, writing and math has increasingly been cut. The arts, imaginative endeavors, recess, inquiry, curriculum that integrates various domains: these are not luxuries but are integral to student identification with learning.
In addition, the use of test data for purposes of evaluating and compensating teachers will work against the education of the most vulnerable children. It is a mistake to conceptualize education as a Ă˘€śRace to the TopĂ˘€ť (as federal grants to schools are titled) Ă˘€” for children or schools. The Obama administration should reject the basic tenet of No Child Left Behind: children are not numbers.
The writer taught in the New York City public school system for more than two decades and is the author of "Welcome to the Aquarium: A Year in the Lives of Children."
To the Editor:
President Obama's new education initiative is a misguided effort to restore America's education prowess. Linking teacher evaluations to faulty standardized tests ignores the socioeconomic impact on a nation that is both rich and poor.
Can a teacher confronting the poverty of some children in Bedford-Stuyvesant be made to compete with a teacher instructing affluent children in Scarsdale? One must consider all societal effects on the education of our children.
Maurice R. Berube
The writer is scholar emeritus at Old Dominion University and the co-author of "The End of School Reform.
To the Editor:
As a former business executive and current New York City public high school educator, as well as director of a charter school, I applaud the effort to use standardized-test measures to evaluate teachers and schools. But it is critical that the incentive not reward solely yearly results; the financial services industry debacle has taught us a hard lesson about short-term orientation and how it distorts behavior.
Rather, I propose that teachers be evaluated on three criteria: student data, principal evaluation and peer review, which would encourage an enduring teamwork culture within and across departments that is the hallmark of great schools. Mitch Kurz
The writer is college adviser/academic dean of the Bronx Center for Science and Math and director of the Promise Academy Charter Schools, Harlem Children's Zone.
To the Editor:
President Obama has the right idea when he says he wants to get rid of ineffective teachers and reward the good ones. But his Race to the Top proposal, which includes using standardized test results to judge teacher performance, will do nothing to meet that goal.
I left my job as a public school teacher shortly after the No Child Left Behind law was passed. My job went from teaching children to teaching test preparation in very little time. Many of our nationĂ˘€™s teachers have left their profession because the focus on testing leaves little room for passion, creativity or intellect.
The No Child Left Behind law identifies successful schools as those that show improved test scores on a test with little redeeming value. Now, the Race to the Top proposal seems to identify "good" teachers as those who successfully teach to the test.
I voted for President Obama. I trust that he does not want to sap our teachers of their creativity and inventiveness. I also trust that he does not want our next generation to be a group of men and women who have learned to await the next multiple-choice problem.
To the Editor:
It is becoming universally accepted that the best (only) way to fix our schools is by using student scores on standardized tests to rate both students and their teachers. Tragically, President Obama's focus on accountability through testing is doomed to fail.
Standardized tests are, by their nature, predictable. Most administrators and teachers, fearing failure and loss of position and/or bonuses, de-emphasize or delete those parts of the curriculum least likely to be tested. The students sense this and neglect serious studying because they know that they will be prepped for the big exams.
Perversely, all of this (plus the constant pressure of grades) leads to a decrease in studentsĂ˘€™ abilities to understand, retain, apply, revere and enjoy what they are asked to learn.
High test scores do not guarantee student learning. The evaluation of a studentĂ˘€™s progress and a teacherĂ˘€™s abilities requires an act of human judgment (much like evaluating a work of art). Our obsession with testing reveals our misunderstanding of the true nature of education. Martin Rudolph
The writer was a math teacher at Oceanside High School, 1962-2006.
To the Editor:
The administration's superseding of "states' rights" by essentially forcing states to follow its demands once again shows a certain insensitivity to time-tested educational principles. Just as mathematics is the most easily quantifiable subject in the curriculum and thereby lends itself to easy testing, to place inordinate importance on test results forces all teachers to concentrate on teaching to the test Ă˘€” especially when their very livelihood is dependent on these results!
To "teach to the test" in mathematics by having students memorize facts and mnemonic devices takes away from the true value of learning mathematics and its ever-increasing importance in our technological society. To deny students the opportunity to be enriched with mathematical concepts prevents them from learning to appreciate the power and beauty of mathematics. In the long range, this could cause irreparable harm to our society!
Alfred S. Posamentier
The writer is a professor of mathematics education and dean of the School of Education at the City College of New York, CUNY.