By Cassie Lipsitz
Our current educational system and the procedures that have been put in place are causing a great disservice to both students and their teachers.
I remember being a student and feeling like I was able to learn through having a discussion in class with my teachers and peers. My opinion was valid as long as I could support it with facts.
Now, as an art teacher, where my desire is to inspire independent thoughts and creativity in my students, all I do is tell my students what is “right or wrong” according to a test.
In my mind, I know art does not have a one-size-fits-all answer, and in my heart, I know this is not going to bode well for future generations.
According to New York State, 40 percent of my teacher evaluation is based on a multiple-choice test given at the end of the year. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants to raise that to 50 percent next year.
Why, if I teach a subject that is based on a physical performance, should I be evaluated using a multiple-choice test? I do not believe in the validity of these tests, but I follow the directives given to me to follow procedure, execute my curriculum, review for a test and allow my students to take it.
I also know that in the end the only person who will be affected by these tests is me. This is why I tell my students (the majority of whom are non-native English speakers, get no translation materials or supports during this test, and can make some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen outside of a gallery) not to worry about the test. I tell them not to worry, because the only person it will affect is me, and I know that my value as an educator is much more than the results the state receives from these tests.
My goals are to enrich my students’ lives with beauty, with ideas and with support. I became a teacher because I know that I have something to share with children.
I became an art teacher because I know children have a voice, and sadly, many people do not listen. I will not allow a system that cares more about data and numbers than it does about human expression and independence to sway me from allowing my students their freedom of creativity. I refuse to submit to an age creating robots instead of thinkers.
The next time you think about judging a teacher, I ask you to look at the children around you. Do these children feel that they are free to think for themselves, or are they being molded by a test-driven machine? Do we have one-size-fits-all answers to life’s big issues? Or, as in the art world, can we look at something and see different perspectives?
Cassie Lipsitz is an arts educator in the Buffalo Public Schools.