[Susan notes: Here are several letters responding to a execrable New York Times editorial:
But the Times editorialists can ignore them. After all, these are only educators and a student speaking about what they know.]
Submitted to New York Times but not published
As a New York City public school math teacher who is experienced in both performance-based assessment and in Regents testing, I want to make a point about your June 17 editorial "Educational Standards Under Assault."
The Math A exam, which is the graduation standard, consists of 30 multiple-choice questions and 9 short-answer questions. In January, a student who answered 14 of the multiple-choice questions correctly and left the short-answer sections completely blank would have fulfilled the graduation requirement. Now, in June, only 13 of the 30 multiple-choice answers needed to be answered correctly to pass the exam.
These are the "rigorous new tests" to which you refer; this is the "progress that New York has made."
What appears to be progress is nothing more than a passing standard that is lowered each time the test is offered. Performance-based assessment does not threaten our education standards; it sets the bar far higher.
To the Editor:
The real assault on educational standards is the insistence on relying on standardized tests, usually in the form of multiple-choice tests, as the sole means of measuring student learning. Mightn't it be more reasonable to determine achievement by having students actually do the thing we wish to evaluate them on?
Would you judge the skills of piano students by having them take a multiple-choice test on piano performance? Or might it make more sense to actually have them play the piano in the presence of those competent to judge the quality of their performance in relationship to an agreed-upon set of standards?
Now here's a radical idea: How about judging students' school achievement based on the work they produce under normal classroom conditions? This is exactly what happens with portfolio assessments that are tied to standards.
The writer is an associate professor of literacy education, Mercy College.
To the Editor:
No school has adopted performance-based assessments in order "to evade rigorous testing." To the contrary, performance-based assessments entail engaging, meaningful evaluations of student work. The time and effort involved are exhausting yet exhilarating for students and educators alike.
Furthermore, the state's blue-ribbon panel of education experts lauded performance-based assessments and recommended perpetuation of waivers granted to schools using this alternative measure in place of the Regents exams.
Having taught at a school geared to the Regents as well as one designed around performance-based assessments, I can attest to the superior rigor and richness of the latter approach.
Harry Streep III
South Nyack, N.Y.
The writer is assistant principal of the Beacon School, a public high school in Manhattan.•
To the Editor:
My freshman and sophomore years of high school were spent at Brooklyn Technical High School, one of the city's specialized high schools and one that prides itself on providing a Regents education. The strict, test-centered curriculum left me uninspired and unwilling to excel in school.
At the start of my junior year I transferred to Urban Academy, one of the Consortium schools that will be affected by the expiration of the Regents waiver. At Urban I excelled. Freed from the demands of the Regents, Urban's curriculum was diverse, exciting and compelling. But most important, both in class and during my work for my proficiencies, I learned how to be inquisitive, how to see both sides of an argument, how to question orthodoxies - the skills needed to learn.
In 2003 I graduated from Mount Holyoke College magna cum laude. Without my experiences at Urban, I do not think I would have gone to a school like Mount Holyoke, let alone excelled. Schools like Urban are necessary so that students who, as I did, learn in different ways but can succeed in the right environment can thrive and realize their full potential. Yes, there are alternative schools that do not reach the same heights of excellence that Urban Academy does, but don't punish the good ones, and the students who need them.