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Teachers Network in the News

Article courtesy of Flatbush Life

Test Results Don't Tell The Tale, Say Teachers

By Stephen Witt

While the jury is still out among the city's public school teachers regarding several federal and city initiatives, about 90 percent gave a thumbs down to incre standardized testing.

The findings were reported at a Teachers Network (TN) policy breakfast held last week at RS. 261, 314 Pacific Street.

30 teaching fellows from the TN's Policy Institute took part in the survey.

"This is a representative group of teacers who are from. kindergarten to 12 th grade," said Meyers, adding that they came from all subject areas throughout the city, and run the gamut from new teachers to 30-year veterans.

The group was asked to voice opinions on two Department of Education (DOE) initiatives, system wide curriculums and parent coordinators.

Additionally, they were asked about two federal mandates under the No Child Left Behind Act tutoring and more standardized testing.

Under the system-wide curriculum, teachers surveyed were equally divided as to the merits of the policy, with 28 percent saying it is positive and 28 percent saying it is negative.

Forty-four percent of those polled said system-wide curriculums have no affect.

Meyers said that, generally, those teachers, favoring system-wide curriculums came from lower performing schools, where such a curriculum allows for more structured teaching.

Teachers from higher performing schools found it more negative, because it takes way from innovative teaching, Meyers, said.

Under the DOE policy of hiring parent coordinators at each school, 39 percent of teachers polled said this is positive, 33 percent said it was negative and 28 percent said parent coordinators have no effect.

Ben Iddings, a TN program associate, said teachers saying parent coordinators had little input generally came from schools where the parent coordinator was not performing their job as a liaison between parents and the school. Other teachers reported it was hard for parents to get hold of the coordinator on the phone.

Conversely, teachers who found parent coordinators as a positive development worked at schools that previously had little communication between the school and parents, and the coordinators were able to do more outreach.

The 28 percent who said the parent coordinators had no effect generally came from schools where there is already good communication between the institution and parents, Iddlings said.

Fifty percent of teachers polled said that additional tutoring was a positive development, especially those working at schools with many students working at below grade level.

"These teachers said it helped because they have a whole lot to do with limited resources and appreciate any help they can get," said Iddings. "It gives teachers more energy and time to meet standards instead of catching up."

Forty-four percent said the tutoring had no effect and only six percent said tutoring had a negative effect.

Iddings said these teachers came from schools performing at or above grade level.

However, the main discrepancy between teacher's opinions and federal guidelines came on the issue of more standardized testing, with 90 percent of the teachers saying it has a negative impact.

Iddings said utilizing these tests as a benchmark to determine how well students are learning is wrong because some students are, just good test takers, while others are not.

"It's a simple answer. Grading teachers by kids ' taking test is like grading a dentist by how many cavities their patients have," Iddings said.

Meyers and Iddings said nobody is against standardized tests, but against high stakes standardized tests.

Meyer also noted the tests are only in math and reading, which make some teachers and schools drop entire portions of social studies and science to concentrate on the tests.

Among the alternatives to using standardized testing as a benchmark, secording to the TN, is the idea of grading children on projects and having their resulting portfolios evaluated.

Iddings noted that preparing students for standardized tests also forces less emphasis on music and the arts, and in some cases these programs have been cut.

'Studies show that arts and music translates to increased achievement. Standardized tests narrow the field where kids can find talents," said Iddings.


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