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Another Voice: Education reform programs get new names, same results

By Andrew Ludwig

Four months after another spring of state testing, the New York State Education Department has finally released the results. High school Regents exam scores are reported in a matter of days. Why does it take four months to score and report the results of testing for grades 3-8? This is one of many questions regarding the state testing program that have gone unanswered for 20 years.

Over the last two decades we have had three presidents, four governors and three Education Department commissioners who have all been involved in this 20-year effort at education reform. Communities across the state have watched our government pour millions of dollars into the implementation of new educational standards and testing. The reforms have been a failure and a waste of taxpayer money. This same wasteful boondoggle has been a huge money maker for textbook, testing and tech companies.

Over the years, the names of the new standards have changed from Common Core Learning Standards to Next Generation Learning Standards but the results from the testing of these standards have not changed. Students who have limited English proficiency still score poorly on these exams. Surprise, students who don’t speak English well don’t score well on tests written in English. Here’s another surprise. Economically disadvantaged students score poorly when compared to the children of wealthy parents. We needed to spend millions to find these things out?

The U.S. Department of Education has changed the name of its education reform plan three times. Race to the Top became No Child Left Behind, which then became the Every Student Succeeds Act. Three changes in president, three changes in reform name. Same middling test results. Our newspapers report the results of these tests and state education officials parrot statements, in articles and sound bites, that are the same year after year.

It’s intimidating to question this ed reform. Many who wish to speak out worry about professional and political repercussions. Some parents worry that if they raise questions, their families will be retaliated against. People also get tired of asking unanswered questions and just give up. Don’t you want No Child Left Behind in the Race to the Top where Every Student Succeeds? Of course we do. This just isn’t the way.

Get more involved in public education. Opt your children out of state testing if your conscience tells you to. Have your children sit for exams if that’s best for you. It’s your right as a parent to decide. Everyone in education should respect thoughtful questions and informed decisions. Never stop asking questions. And when the people in power can’t or won’t answer questions, ask more.

Andrew Ludwig is a recently retired middle school principal who teaches math at Jamestown Community College.

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