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[Susan notes: Here is a good reminder that there are other people to write besides newspaper editors.

I don't recall anyone before making the excellent point before that alll those test prep reading passages are so badly written.]

Submitted to Broward School Board Members but not published

To the editor

To: Broward School Board Members

Re: “Elementary days might get longer” Miami Herald, January 12, 2005

Dear Board Members:

Nowhere in this account of your discussion regarding lengthening the elementary school day does anyone address the real reason why Broward County teachers feel they don’t have enough time to teach social studies and other subjects that are being short-changed. Recess has nothing to do with it. The district’s new recess policy didn’t cut any time out of the school day - it established a 15-minute minimum. At my children’s

school this led to a five-minute REDUCTION in recess.

It is absurd to suggest a connection between recess – which grows shorter year after year - and the failure of our elementary schools to provide a meaningful curriculum in six hours a day.

It is absurd to suggest that you need another half hour to supplement the curriculum while year after year you adopt policies to expand the amount of time devoted to nothing more than a single standardized test score.

It is the obsessive focus on FCAT test scores that has drained the elementary curriculum of meaningful learning time. As if monthly practice tests, daily practice drills and an avalanche of FCAT-related worksheets, text books and homework

assignments were not enough – this board voted this year to add yet another layer of practice testing to the mix. Still some schools can find time to conduct FCAT pep rallies!

You are allowing test preparation to consume the elementary school curriculum in contradiction of everything that modern brain science and common sense suggests about how children learn, and how children come to love learning.

You are presiding over a system that is trading microscopes and experiments for multiple choice science worksheets, that has pushed aside genuine literature for badly written reading “passages” and rewards mediocre formula writing over


You have stood by while principals and teachers cut art, music, recess and yes, social studies to accommodate more test preparation. One elementary school principal eliminated his science program altogether to pull up the school’s letter grade,

reasoning that since science wasn’t on the FCAT, it didn’t make sense to devote that much time to it.

A school system shortsighted enough to allow such things to happen does not deserve an extra half hour of our children’s time.

Patricia Dunnigan

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