My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Inadequate evaluations hamper progress in our school system

This is a link to an oped by Steve Rivkin in last week's Amherst Bulletin which I think raises a number of very important points ( Steve's professional work examines the economics of education, and therefore he brings a depth of understanding of the research on education to his School Committee work (in fact, he was recently asked to present research on the effects of class size on achievement to the Brookline School Committee). I found this oped fascinating, and hope my blog readers will enjoy it as well.


Betsy said...

What's particularly fascinating about this op-ed is the complete absence of student or parent input regarding teachers! Kids should have a say, too, as should parents.

A key tenet to Obama's Race to the Top is linking teacher performance to standardized test scores. It's being described as more No Child Left Behind than NCLB itself. One can only imagine the extent to which such incentives will narrow the curriculum even more, especially in the early grades.

Has anybody read Diane Ravitch's book? It's time to wake and smell the odor of the cult of assessment, which is alive and well in Amherst.

The narrowing of the curriculum is a major reason why we have left Amherst public schools. Our kid is now thriving! The testing zest has a spoiling effect that negates and harms many, many young children.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Besty - I hear there is a new movie called August to June that examines precisely this issue. I don't know if it is coming to Amherst (it hasn't gotten the same attention as Waiting for Superman), but it is supposed to be very good. It follows one school that is taking a broader, less test-based approach to education.

One more thing: I believe public schools have a responsibility to educate all kids - meaning inspire, engage, challenge, support all kids. If our public schools aren't doing that, they need to - it is great that some families can afford (in terms of money or time) to opt out for private school, charter school, homeschool, etc. But public schools are precisely that -- public. They need to work for ALL kids, and I'm sorry our public schools didn't work for your child.

I believe the testing is well-intentioned to make sure that kids aren't falling through the cracks and NOT learning what they should be learning, so I'm not anti-MCAS. But I believe schools and superintendents and School Committees have a responsibility to manage the MCAS demands in a way that promotes learning for the whole child (e.g., art, music, PE, language) in a way that is inspiring, and if we aren't doing that now as well as we should, we need to know that and we need to change that. I don't believe that standardized testing should REQUIRE a narrowing of curriculum and harming children ... although I understand that it at times does.

Thanks for posting on my blog!

Anonymous said...

Amherst has demonstrated that not all kids are supported and many are just being pushed through or out of the system.