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[Susan notes: This letter was written in response to an op-ed piece by Louis V. Gerstner, insisting on the need for standards and rigorous testing. ]

Submitted to New York Times but not published
03/14/2002
editorial@nytimes.com

Talk to the Kids You've Labeled 'Failure'

Thank you, Louis V. Gerstner for "Tests We Know We Need." [3/14/02] At long last I get it. Teachers and parents in New York boycotted the reading test because "some people resist change, especially when compliance with a new
policy involves real effort."

So teachers protesting the tests are just lazy laggards.

Here's a modest proposal: Maybe next time the folks at Public Agenda (who prove every week that "nonprofit" definitely does not mean
"non-partisan")---and Mr. Gerstner---will talk to the Birmingham, Alabama 522, kids pushed out of school because the district was desperate to raise its scores and the easiest way to raise scores is to dump low scorers.

Maybe they'll talk to the 4th grader in the Bronx who worried she'd fail the test and thereby fail her school, her family, and her country. And the Atlanta kindergartner featured on the front page of the NY Times who wanted to look for ladybugs but couldn't because, in the name of the needs of the Global Economy, the superintendent eliminated recess.

For twenty + years, I taught "the others," the 20% who don't do well on the tests, the 20% who aren't headed off to college. We cannot afford to throw these children away in the name of the Global Economy just because they can't make sense of Roger Ascham's arcane prose or can't pass algebra.

Everybody doesn't need to be able to decipher Roger Ascham---or algebra---to be a caring, compassionate, productive member of our society. We must stop telling children from kindergarten on that they aren't good enough. It's past time to ask Good for what? For whom?

What's good for IBM and the Global Economy is not good for America's children.

Susan Ohanian


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