An Open Letter To NYS Education Commissioner John B. King [Testing Isn’t Natural]

Jose Vilson Resources

Dear John B. King,

Let me just get this out of the way: testing is not natural.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that parents have gotten fed up with the abundance of testing placed upon their kids, and the continual dependence on standardized testing as a measure of actual student learning. The facts are out, the voices have started to quake, and the general tenor of the educational debate has struck a chord with the general public. The terrible after-effects of the No Child Left Behind Act along with corporations pushing local and federal governments towards their own beliefs about public education have only pushed the protests further. There’s only so much misinformation that the general media can push onto parents before they too catch wind of what students and educators have seen all along.

Public education is becoming less public.

To further that sentiment, you said the following:

[quote]”The environment around standardized testing has become so acrimonious that we’ve forgotten that adults need to set a positive tone for students around assessment as a natural part [of education].”[/quote]

Wait, what?

Mr. King, I beg your pardon. Are you insinuating that adults, meaning those of us actually working with the kids, need to grin and bear it while our students get pummeled with a standardized test month after month? That they should equate the way that states give tests with actual learning? That we weren’t already trying to create a positive tone without these tests actually being in the way of that?

I’m in no way outraged because, as it turns out, I expected you to show your hand when it came to these things. The same money used to draw the huge contract recently doled out to Pearson to create (and probably fix) these tests could have been used to hire more adults to our neediest schools. Plus, your department asked the rest of us to carry out your agenda in the form of a memo. As if the kids haven’t already picked up that most of these tests shouldn’t be taken seriously. As if testing them this many times will actually matter in the lives they hope to lead after K-12.

Sure, life throws tests at us all the time, but they don’t directly affect the profit margins of Pearson and the plethora of third-party vendors trying to get us ready for something no one fully understands yet. They often come sporadically, without schedule or modifications. Some of the tests my students have passed in life, you or I might have failed given those conditions. Yet, we continually push the edge of pushing the students most disenchanted with school away from school.

Making schools better isn’t a matter of who gives the most tests, but whose testament assures that all adults have assured students their best efforts to educate them, no matter their circumstances. Testing isn’t natural, but you know that by now.

Mr. Vilson, who has a few more letters to write.