Tag Archives: NYC DOE

Gov. Cuomo, Too Much is at Risk if We Reopen Schools


Dear Gov. Cuomo,

In your news conference today, you spent time empowering the voices of parents, and to some extent, teachers, with regard to the reopening of schools in our state. Incidentally, I am both a parent of students in Nassau County and a teacher in Queens. So is my wife. I bring a doubly anxious and concerned perspective to the idea of reopening.

While I certainly appreciate the logic behind opening schools as a way to get people back to work and the economy on the right track, I can’t possibly see past the myriad issues that are confronting my family and the communities we live and work in if in-person instruction is to resume.

You deserve credit for the way your leadership helped New Yorkers suppress the horrible crisis we faced this spring. Your messaging has been constant and consistent to the point it is ingrained in the minds of many New Yorkers. Thankfully, we are doing well. However, I do believe that if we reopen schools, we do so at the peril of ratcheting up the crisis once more, and there are many reasons why. You yourself have warned that New York will potentially suffer the effects of the many places around the country that are seeing a surge in cases.

I can’t wrap my head around the idea that, in New York City, as dense and populous as it is, indoor restaurants and bars can’t open, but schools can. A theoretical argument might posit that social distancing will be required, masks will be worn, plexiglass will be installed, filtration will be improved, etc. As it turns out, I am on the reopening committee for my school, and based on the information coming from the New York City Department of Education – or lack thereof – the prospect of reopening doesn’t only sound implausible, it sounds terrifying. The state and city budgets are decimated, and who knows when the gridlock in Washington might be broken to deliver us the funds we need?

My wife teaches kindergarten. I teach third grade self-contained special education. In neither of our classrooms is it reasonable to expect constant compliance from these young children. It isn’t natural, nor is it productive for their education.

You are a father, just like me. We have raised our children. As I reflect back on their younger years, I ask myself: When my children were in kindergarten, could they have reasonably been expected to wear a mask for 6 hours and 50 minutes? Could they have reasonably been expected to keep a safe distance from their friends at all times? Could they reasonably have been expected to make it through a day without a hug from their teacher? While crying? While having a nose bleed? While being scared of something? The list goes on and on. It just can’t be done.

As a parent, I can guarantee that task would have been impossible for my children, and even if it wasn’t, there would definitely have been children in their classes and schools for whom it was. My point is: it all sounds nice on paper, but in practice? I have no faith in it working. Many of my colleagues and friends share the same concerns and fears.

As a teacher, how can I perform my job at my best if I don’t feel I am safe, or that my students are safe, or that my family is safe? Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate. And if I’m back in a school building, with my wife also in a building, with our children in their separate schools, we are just running up our chances to get sick or worse. The domino effect that will be caused by any one person involved with a school (indirectly as a parent or directly as a student or teacher) will be catastrophic to the point that conceivably, schools will need to close, reopen, and close again the next day because of new cases. What is the point? 

What is more important than safety? Without your health, you have nothing. I have never dreaded the start of the school year more.

I allow that remote learning was not a great success when we transitioned to it overnight in March. That’s not the fault of the teachers, parents, or students who learned on the fly how to do things in a completely different way. The fact is, we were all caught unprepared because our leadership at every level was unprepared.

Now, months later, principals and teachers are being asked – no, forced – to contrive measures with minimal logical guidance in order to keep their school communities safe, or should I say, as safe as possible. I venture to guess that very few of these people have healthcare backgrounds, and so the mission is doomed to fail from the start. It’s not for lack of caring or effort. It’s just too awesome a task to tackle. 

Why not devote this time and whatever money will be spent toward safety measures to something that can demonstrably improve our current situation: professional development for remote pedagogy? How about training for parents? 

The piecemeal, patchwork way we got through the spring is not sustainable, and the likely reality is that once we are back in person, we’re going to wind up being remote anyway. In Corona, Queens, where my wife and I work, this is all but guaranteed. Neighboring Elmhurst was the epicenter of the entire country. Is there any reason to think it won’t be hit terribly again?

Our role is to educate, to inspire, and to meet our students’ various needs. I’m telling you now, I can’t do that without feeling confident in my safety or that of my family. Reopening schools in-person is a recipe for disaster and heartbreak. I recently told my 14-year old daughter, who was challenging our strictness about her social life, that my greatest worry is that she, or one of us, will be involved in a new outbreak without being aware. In other words, we go about our lives and suddenly, we’re part of a new health crisis. Is that necessary?

Governor, you have showed the entire country a model for stemming the awful tide of this pandemic for our wonderful state. You’re owed a great debt of gratitude. However, you know we’re not out of the woods yet. So let me ask you, then: rather than ease off the accelerator, why not continue to go full throttle toward stemming the tide? If we keep our foot on the throat of this crisis, don’t we keep all New Yorkers – including parents, teachers, and students – safer? You are fond of the mountain metaphor, and now, thankfully, we are on the other side of the first mountain. But it’s only the first. Another seemingly inevitable mountain looms ahead. 

There is much work to still be done to protect New Yorkers’ lives. An obvious way to do that is to allow districts to go fully remote to start the year. Do as you have always done as we proceed: evaluate, reevaluate, and adjust the sails. The potential human toll is too great to do anything else.

I’m a dad. I’m a teacher. I hold both roles deeply in my heart. I chose both as paths for me many years ago. I have never looked back. I have loved my children and my students. 

My grandmother lived to be 91 and would always say, “If you’re healthy, you’re happy.” Governor, I am very worried that there’s a lot of unhappiness on the horizon. Please do your part to limit that as much as possible.

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Gov. Cuomo, Don’t Gamble with Lives to Open Schools


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Dear Gov. Cuomo,

I write to you today as a career educator entering my 13th year as an elementary school teacher in Corona, Queens. You’ll recall Corona as the literal epicenter of New York’s Covid-19 outbreak. I work there. My students and their families live there. Many of them contracted Covid, and in our school, many students are now mourning the deaths of their grandparents and parents.

I also write to you as a father. I’ve got three children who mean the world to me. One starts high school this year, another sets off for middle school, and the other, who is 2, happily oblivious to any of the world’s sadness (or even my and his mommy’s worries) and who has attended daycare since 6-months old. He randomly announced yesterday, “I miss school.”

During this pandemic, you have shown bold and courageous leadership for our state, garnering you acclaim and national recognition as you deftly worked around and against the absence of leadership from the White House. While the President railed against masks as a sign of weakness, you urged New Yorkers to wear them as a sign of respect. While the President frighteningly and stupefyingly painted a rosy picture of a once-in-a-generation health crisis, you spoke honestly, truthfully, and bluntly about the public responsibility to help flatten the curve. Although most people probably would never choose to live life under lockdown, cherished community institutions shuttered and family norms shattered, the fact is it worked.

You also acknowledge that New York will see a rise in cases as cases rise around the country. It is generally accepted that come fall, the pandemic will reach its second wave, which, they say, will be worse than the first.

Governor, your priority for our state through this pandemic has been public health. I understand that the economy needs to creak back to life, truly I do. But if that has to come at the potential expense of student and teacher lives, is it worth it?

Trump has flouted every recommendation from people who know more than any of us. His level of hubris and self-assuredness in the face of unrelenting fact, numbers, and basically, destruction, have led this country down a dark road into a cavernous abyss where we laypeople are sacrificed for the cause of his bungling bid to be reelected. His calls for reopening states to drive the economic engine have been more than irresponsible. They’ve been reckless, selfish, and without question, deadly.

At every opportunity you have distinguished yourself as the AntiTrump, showing greater understanding of the long game of the pandemic. I am calling on you to continue to do so. When Trump and DeVos call for opening schools, I urge you to stand up for our students and teachers and not lead them over a cliff the way Trump has already done to so many Americans who have become victims of his lack of caring or understanding.

How can schools open without proper funding, enough space, a vaccine? Is it your position that to move the economy along, children must die? Teachers must figure out ways to deal with immensely challenging scenarios and educate children while anxiously worrying about their own health and that of their families? Can you imagine a school functioning to it’s fullest educational capacity when everyone is trying to understand how to keep pre-k students from being near each other, or keep mischief makers from messing around with their masks, or walk down the halls with 6 feet around every student in each direction? This is not only senseless, it’s impossible.

Whatever money there is this year that’s meant to go toward sanitization, cleanliness, barriers, PPE, and whatever else is needed to bring students back to school, why not take that money instead and invest it into professional development to help teachers improve their remote pedagogy? Why not use it to bring awareness and understanding to parents who will be home with their children while they learn remotely? Why not use it to fund childcare services for parents who can’t stay home for remote learning?

We need to be thinking outside the box. It’s not enough to say, “Kids need to be back in school.” They do, of course. But if it means they’re going to die, or their teachers will, well, I don’t see how that’s worth it.

The threshold you’ve prescribed – that a region must be under 5% infected over 14 days – assumes you are okay with approximately 100 students and staff in my building being sick at one time, and potentially having their lives at risk. And on top of that, it’s okay by you that, as we extrapolate the numbers, the likelihood of sustained infection and outbreak in the building just goes higher and higher. We don’t yet know how kids spread the disease because we haven’t seen enough kids together during this pandemic. Why assume the best when that almost certainly means more illnesses and deaths?

You are keen to point out repeatedly, and justifiably so, that being “New York State tough” allowed NY to be a model for the country, a beacon of what you should do to handle this crisis. With your own admission that cases will rise due to surges around the country, as well as a recent Siena/NY Times poll indicating 82% of New Yorkers expect things to be worse in the fall, I just don’t understand your gamble.

Trump gambles with lives. Why are you?

It Snows, and We Go


Yeahhhhh...no it isn't.

Yeahhhhh…no it isn’t.

This will be a brief little rant before, for the third time in 2014, I venture out into what the mayor of New York calls “hazardous” or “treacherous” travel conditions because my job requires it. See, I’m a teacher, and while all indications are generally that New Yorkers should stay indoors and only head out in emergencies, schools are still open because, as the new adage goes, “Kids have to eat.”

They do, of course. And if I’m a new mayor – Bill de Blasio – or schools chancellor – Carmen Fariña – doesn’t it sound great for me to show how much I care about the students’ wellbeing? Sure it does.

I’m not callous or ignorant enough to argue against this. There truly are kids who rely on school for their most complete meals of the day. But, there are other facts that can’t be ignored:

  • The logic behind warning about hazardous and treacherous travel conditions for “all” New Yorkers extends to our littlest ones, too. They’re walking on sidewalks still covered in ice (since no one seems too worried about enforcing the law about property owners shoveling their sidewalks in an appropriate amount of time). They’re riding buses on slick roads when officials are cautioning people to stay off the streets.
  • Many parents think it’s ridiculous to send their kids out into weather-related danger, so they opt to keep them home. Our snowstorms this year have resulted in roughly 65% student attendance across the city. Most teachers with half a brain know that if more than a third of the class is out, you put a hold on any new lessons.
  • Thousands of teachers are being put in harm’s way, too. I have colleagues who travel 20 miles to get to work. Even for me – I’m only five or six miles from my school – it’s an adventure. The main street by my apartment has not been a priority for plowing in any of the storms this year. It’s a mostly downhill trip from my building to the highway, so for about a mile, I’m crawling along (if I’m not skidding along). Furthermore, teachers who drive and work in dense areas, like I do, are contending with deplorable parking conditions on the streets as it is. There are mounds of snow that turned to mounds of ice and on a day like today, with all the new precipitation, getting out of those spots will be even worse.
  • Full-day storms like that one we’re expecting today, actually don’t just impact the morning commute for students and teachers. They affect the afternoon commute, too – you know, when everything’s even worse. No one ever seems to remember that. (This might explain why after-school programs haven’t been canceled, either).

Anyway, it’s getting late. Normally I wouldn’t be up for another 10 minutes. But, I was up at 4:10 today, expecting to hear that cooler heads prevailed in the Ivory Tower – I mean mayor’s office. I don’t know why I ever thought that.

Safe travels, everyone. Especially the kids.

Thoughts from the Beach


It’s easy to sit on the beach and tell myself it isn’t time to start thinking about the upcoming school year. But watching the waves crash, one’s mind covers many topics. On this particular day, mine has me looking toward September and yet another year brimming with challenge and opportunity.

Perhaps the headline story for those of us who work in New York City is our new Danielson-based teacher evaluation system. It replaces what many observers felt was an arbitrary system that left too much out of the equation and evaluated us solely as satisfactory or unsatisfactory in the classroom. Under the new system, teachers will be evaluated on 22 domains. In addition to instructional practice, there is impact on student learning, professional contributions, and so on.

We mostly agree that this type of system presents a fuller picture of us as professionals. Everyone will be able to present artifacts to support their cases for effective or highly effective ratings. Those who receive ineffective or developing ratings will receive support, but if improvements aren’t made, termination becomes a very real possibility.

In practice, this all seems fair, and it all makes sense. The problem is that everyone is learning on the fly because the process of enacting the system is, as Diane Ravitch often says, akin to building airplanes in the sky. I attended professional development in my school and with the district superintendent. There were a lot of questions but very few answers. This is unsettling.

I have said, though, to people who are worried, that anyone doing their job has little reason to fear the change. If the system plays out as it should, we will be receiving prompt, specific feedback after observations. Anyone who is already reflective will see the benefit of this. Anyone who doesn’t will resist and create difficulties for themselves.

Practically speaking, in a school my size, implementation is going to be a major challenge. For now, though, I’m optimistic.

The next challenge is the one that always faces me: the students. I’ve written on this blog before – and people who know me know this is true – that I always give my incoming students the benefit of a clean slate when they first enter my class.

The same applies for this year’s group, even though some of what I witnessed last year from them behaviorally and academically is a bit worrisome. Don’t get me wrong. I can handle behaviors, but the expectations are so high – Common Core and whatnot – that based on what I know about these kids academically, I am in for an exceptionally trying – but I hope, ultimately rewarding – year.

Everyone will progress, and regardless of what drum-beating non-educators think of that, that has to be our goal. I always aim for the standardized tests to be a footnote to the year, but so much has changed now that I may have to, as well. All that means is being extra creative about giving them some kind of confidence that they can accomplish what is basically impossible. Just like I can’t be expected to outrun an Olympic sprinter, kids on kindergarten reading levels with disabilities can’t be expected to ace tests that are, to begin with, above their grade level.

And now I’m ranting. So it’s probably best for me to finish this post and go back to looking at the ocean. Enjoy the summer while it lasts, friends.

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Sandy Closes Schools, Sandy Opens Schools


Most teacher folk I know are outraged that, as a result of the five days NYC schools were closed due to Hurricane Sandy and the need to meet a minimum number of attendance days (per New York State law), three days (plus a half-day) that would have previously been non-attendance days have been switched. In other words: kids will be in for four days they normally wouldn’t have.

I can definitely see both sides of the issue here, but I want to go over some of the many factors that exist.

Before I do, though, I must give credit to Arthur Goldstein, who wrote this excellent letter to UFT President Michael Mulgrew. I draw plenty of inspiration from his words as I share my thoughts on the situation.

Some arguments and some points:

This isn’t fair. That’s what some said to me when they found out. In a sense, it’s perfectly fair. During the week of the Sandy closures, I sat in my warm apartment watching the news, thanking my lucky stars I wasn’t affected. Sure, it was a tense week, as I was out of contact with many people who I knew were in trouble, but materially, physically, and emotionally, I lost nothing. For me, it was really a “week off,” though like I said, hardly a vacation. In this spirit, it’s no skin off my back to go to to work on those days.

The other side of this, though, is all those NYC DOE employees who were affected by Sandy. I’d be interested to know just how many total employees live in the Rockaways, lower Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Beach, or on the south shore of Long Island, all areas that were badly hit. Unlike me, these people didn’t have the luxury of relaxing inside as the storm and its aftereffects raged. No, they spent their week doing all different kinds of things: witnessing their homes burn down; being caught in neck-deep flood waters; shivering in homes without gas, electric, or heat; sleeping in shelters; watching sewage come up through their sinks; and much, much worse.

For them, Sandy week was not a week off. It was a week from hell. Many of my colleagues who felt the worst effects still managed to make it to work everyday, even though they were displaced from their homes. They shouldn’t have to work the extra days. They never got the time off I did.

So, what are you doing this February break? In my youth, the mid-winter recess meant we were going to Florida for our annual visit to the grandparents’ house and all the fun that entailed. Many students look forward to the break as I did because it means a trip somewhere. Now, despite the Mayor believing that many parents rely on schools to keep their kids under watch, don’t think for a second that if families already have vacation plans, they won’t be keeping them. I actually think we’ll see a large dip in attendance February 20-22: days that were previously part of the break but are now attendance days.

But I have all this paper work to do. June 4 was to be a clerical half-day, so that our morning could be spent teaching and our afternoon be spent completing report cards and cumulative records in preparation for the end of the year, which also brings with it reorganization of classes and record exchange. The time allotted for this work is precious. In my school, we basically all sit in our rooms in silence and get it done. And it’s wonderful.

This June 4, kids will be with us all day, meaning one less 3.5 hour block to do extremely important work against a deadline. My only guess is that on Brooklyn-Queens Day, which is a non-attendance day for students, we will be given time to complete records, only under more pressure because it’s later in the week.

Like I said, I see all sides of this issue. In a perfect world, my dear colleagues in school and out who suffered the worst – people who lost homes or are continuing to gut and rebuild – would not be required to work these three-plus extra days because they never had a day off anyway. But where do you draw the line? How do you determine who fits the criteria?

I don’t believe kids should be kept out of school, but I also don’t believe this is as cut and dry as the law says. This storm is unprecedented in our history, so exceptions and nuance must apply.

I have no simple solution, only these thoughts. What real ideas and solutions do you propose?

Back to Work on Friday. But How?


I will give Mayor Mike Bloomberg points for the way he has handled Sandy. Apart from bookending the storm with a panned decision not to evacuate zone A earlier (CBS’ weather guys were killing that decision) and ending yesterday’s press conference with a testy exchange, Bloomberg showed some smart leadership qualities. Sunday night, once he realized how bad things were going to be, he wised up, ordered evacuations, closed schools, and clearly gave New Yorkers information.

Day after day, we have marveled at the fact that the schools remain closed. It is probably unprecedented in our city’s history to have five days of closings due to natural disaster. But with so many people stranded by a crippled transportation system or dealing with flood damage to homes and cars, it kind of makes sense.

What makes less sense – and it may become clearer how it will work as today goes on – is the expectation that all staff members of DOE schools are expected to report for work tomorrow. You have to understand, if you’re not following the storm aftermath, that huge swaths of the subway system are shut down. Railroad service has not been fully restored, either. Gas lines are stretching for four hours in places. If it sounds like a horror movie, it could be.

I know several people who won’t be able to get to work tomorrow. They live on Long Island, in Connecticut, and in New Jersey. Their cars are totaled by floods and they won’t have the opportunity to rent one by tomorrow. They live in areas inaccessible by public transportation at this point.

The question is whether they’ll be penalized a day for not being able to make it to work. Unless the mayor plans to send a helicopter to these people, what are they supposed to do?

Field Tests Should Be Taken Out in a Field and…


I heard an enticing nugget today. After they finish the English proficiency exams (which are three days this week), the lucky little kiddies who attend elementary school in NYC still can’t move their desks out of rows or put down their number 2 pencils. Field tests are next.

A field test sounds like something scientific, educational, and even fun. “I wonder if this rocket I built will actually launch. I’ll take it to a field and test it.” “I wonder if this seed can grow in different types of soil. I’ll plant it in a field and test it.” “I wonder what the average temperature is here over 60 days. I’ll use a thermometer in the field and test it.”

In reality, though, there’s nothing fun or educational about a field test. A field test is much less meaningful than The Test. It is administered for the purpose of seeing what questions work on kids and what questions don’t. Field tests are hardly scientific. After all, what kid will truly put forth his best effort on another standardized test with a month to go, especially knowing The Test is over?

And why is it necessary to subject the kids to more of the same? My kids have a mural and a scrapbook to complete by the end of the year, but precious time will be lost to a field test.

Field tests serve one purpose, far as I can tell: to frustrate the kids. On the ELA and math tests, the questions colleagues and I figured were field questions were concepts we hadn’t yet taught and/or were significantly above grade level. Therefore, try  though they might have to answer them the best they could, kids were, invariably, agitated by searching their brains for an answer their brains didn’t have.

Why must we continue to sacrifice valuable educational time to serve the demands of non-educators who aren’t adding anything worthwhile to the causes we champion? It’s another example of school gone bad. As always, the main victims are the children.

Test Prep Season From a Student’s Perspective


I used to love school. I used to skip there every morning after breakfast. I used to run as fast as I could to get to my classroom (except when an adult was in the hall – then I walked as fast as I could).

I used to wait outside the classroom reading a book or finishing homework. When the teacher opened the door, he used to have a big smile on his face, brighter than the sun. He used to say, “Come in and let’s learn together today!” I used to smile back and say, “Good morning!” knowing I was going to have a wonderful day with my wonderful teacher in my wonderful class at my wonderful school.

I don’t love school anymore. I don’t think I even like it anymore, to tell the truth. I don’t skip there anymore (but sometimes I think of skipping it altogether). I don’t run to my room (but sometimes I want to run away).

The teacher isn’t happy anymore. He doesn’t say, “Let’s learn together” very much. He only says, “We have an article to read. Let’s get moving.” Most of us wish we could move. Far, far away.

Everyday, we read, but not from books. Sometimes they’re called articles. Sometimes they’re called passages. Sometimes they’re called stories. I still don’t know why the teacher calls them different things. Maybe in the morning they’re one thing and in the afternoon they’re something else. We read them, whatever they’re called, and they’re very hard! I keep asking the teacher to let us read books, but he says there is no time.

Sometimes after we read, we have to write a little bit. That’s not so bad. I just write whatever I think I’m supposed to write. I always show it to my teacher because I never know if it’s right, and I want to make sure I am putting what he wants to see.

Sometimes we answer questions with an A, B, C, or D. A is the first letter in my name so I usually pick A for most answers. Bubbling is actually kind of fun, though. One time, we took a practice test and when I bubbled in the answers, I made a pattern. It looked like a staircase on the scantron!

Sometimes, when I’m reading a story, article, or passage, I start staring at something in the room and I forget to stop. Then the teacher is tapping on my desk and saying my name. I say, “Sorry,” but as soon as he walks away, I’m staring at something else. Then he starts getting upset and I just keep staring at that something else. When I remember I’m in school, I just pick an answer and then find something else to stare at. This happens everyday for like, 2 hours, I think.

It’s not so bad. I don’t have to think and I like that because thinking makes my head hurt. Anyway, I don’t think I’m supposed to know what to do because the words in these passage article stories are really big. So I’m really not sure why we’re using them but it must be because the teacher is so unhappy that he wants to punish us for it.

A lot of the kids try to get the answers right. They want the teacher to be proud of them. I see those kids looking back in the passage article stories to find answers, but I know them all, so I never look back. When the teacher says I should look in the passage article stories, I say, “But I know it!” and he says, “They don’t want to know what you already know. They want to see if you can read the passage” and I say, “BUT I KNOW IT!” By now, I’m getting really mad so I start to slam my pencil down, and I stand up to walk around the room. It is weird, though. Every time I think I do know it, I get the answer wrong. But still, I’m not going to look back in the passage article story. It’s so boring. I’ll just pick an answer. Maybe I’ll get it right and maybe I’ll get it wrong.

At the end of the day, I am happy to have the fresh air on my face after being trapped in passage article stories all day. I say, “Bye” to the teacher and go home, where I pick answers by myself. When my mom asks me if I’m going to read books tonight, I tell her, “There is no time.” She says, “Okay. Do what the teacher says. You have to do well on the test.”

When I go to sleep I see grey bubbles in my head. When I dream, I see a passage article story opening it’s mouth and swallowing me. When it closes its mouth, I know there is no way to escape, so I wake up screaming, terrified that when the test comes, it too will swallow me whole.

What Does a Know-it-All Know, Anyway?


I’ve heard people suggest that, since I’m a special education teacher, I am also a saint. People have told me, “Those kids need someone like you,” and, “They need a good male role model.”

Of course, none of these people are political types or billionaires. The way these influencers see it, I’m exactly the kind of teacher my kids don’t need because I don’t add enough value. Full disclosure: I typed that sentence with a smirk on my face.

Instead of honoring my commitment to teaching a high-needs cohort (or the commitment of others who teach special ed, ESL, or in high poverty areas), the know-it-alls use the choice I’ve made to label me a poor teacher. It is both upsetting and laughably idiotic that they have perversely twisted the notion of good teaching so that the teachers who take on the hardest assignments are made to look like the worst teachers.

Which shows you just how little these know-it-alls know.

The Evolution of Testing in My Career


Since my career began, here’s a sample of what I have heard from politicians, colleagues, others in school, and those joining in the discourse around the country regarding standardized testing:

As a pre-service teacher: Nothing.

I was left to assume the tests were an inconvenient nuisance at the end of the year that just had to be done – kind of like filling out a survey and receiving a prize.

As a first-year fifth grade teacher: “He took summer school because he failed the test.” “There are only __ days left until the test!” “Just do the test prep and don’t complain.” “We don’t even get the scores until July.” “The test doesn’t mean anything, they all get promoted, anyway.” “New York’s test scores are higher than ever!”

As a second-year fifth grade teacher: “This year is going to be really rough because we have one test and the next week we have the other one.” “We’re going to do a test practice passage every month so they know what’s coming.” “There are only __ days left until the test!!!” “These tests don’t show anything. It’s so easy to get a 3.” “We removed a whole class set of tests for having the exact same answer on an essay*.” “New York continues to raise test scores.”

As a third-year first/second grade teacher: Since I wasn’t in a testing grade, I’ve blocked it all out, except for me saying to colleagues, “I don’t miss the tests.” (Though this is the year I became a lot more keenly aware of the political dialogue around testing and the tremendous and unrelenting pressures of NCLB and Race to the Top.)

As a fourth-year third grade teacher: “We really have to make sure these kids do well.” “We’re doing six weeks of test prep and have to cover 50 indicators in math.” “We don’t want teachers teaching to the test.” “You know, this is important for your tenure and your job – you want to be able to show good test scores.” “Your test scores will count for at least 20% in our new teacher evaluation system.” “These test scores are so meaningless, why do they print them in the paper?” “It’s just not fair to the kids.”

*I heard this from someone who scored tests. In New York, teachers score tests from other schools.