By Victor Skinner
Kathy Newman, the mother of a third-grader at Linden Elementary School in Pittsburgh, recently wrote an editorial for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about why her 9-year-old won’t be taking the state tests, and her missive went viral, the Sunday Dispatch reports.
The tests “warp the educational environment,” Newman wrote. She’s concerned about “what we see high-stakes testing doing to our children.”
“I’m surprised that it struck such a chord, because I think it could be seen as a radical idea,” Newman told the Associated Press.
We’re not surprised at all.
Teachers union officials and others in the education establishment have been trying hard to make the case against standardized tests because in many states those tests are now tied to teachers’ performance evaluations.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, recently went so far as to suggest that teachers and administrators who helped Atlanta students cheat on standardized tests are victims of “high-stakes” pressure.
There is certainly pressure for teachers to succeed, and in many states that’s not happening to an acceptable degree.
Across the country, schools are failing to meet Annual Yearly Progress – a benchmark set by the federal No Child Left Behind law. That law requires states to have all students performing at grade level by 2014.
In Pennsylvania, 75.7 percent of students are at or above grade level in math, 71.9 percent for reading and 61.4 percent making the grade in science. Clearly, Pennsylvania students have a long way to go and a short time to get there.
That’s why Pennsylvania and numerous other states have applied for waivers from the No Child Left Behind law – which would allow them to avoid penalties for lackluster student performance.
But now some parents are complicating the issue by supporting the notion that it’s the tests, not the teachers, who cause the problems in schools. There’s a national movement called United Opt Out, to encourage parents to pull their kids from class on test day.
But avoiding tests and accountability will do nothing to improve public education. Without the tests, parents will have no way of knowing whether their child is ahead of the game, or falling behind. Without the tests, school officials won’t be able to evaluate teachers based on their progress with students.
In other words, by discrediting standardized tests, and goading parents into doing the same, union officials can minimize accountability for their members.
The fact that Newman’s anti-testing editorial went viral may be a troubling sign that more parents are buying into the union’s propaganda.
Parents should insist that their children learn, instead of helping teachers unions make excuses for why they don’t.