Today was the first day of NYS ELA testing in NYS. 243 parents out of 306 in grades 3-6 at my son’s school opted their children out of high stakes testing. There was a press conference to bring awareness to the growing opt out movement in Brooklyn. These are the remarks I wrote, and referred to heavily today when I spoke to the press:
Eleven years ago I was a third grade teacher at a private independent school in Brooklyn Heights. I had a student, Claudia, who had become interested in video recording that spring, so she decided to film what she called “A Day in the Life of a Third Grader” to show the rising 2nd graders what they had to look forward to. She carried her hand held video camera around for two days, documenting our day which consisted of collaborative problem solving using pattern blocks in math, the animal research that each child worked on in science, their fun and learning in gym, art, music and the intensely focused faces of the children listening to the read aloud I did of “Charlotte’s Web” at the end of the day.
Fast forward to today. I have a third grader. His experience in third grade has been virtually identical to that of the children I taught at the private school eleven years ago, except for his class size of 32. He loves school, is excited about the learning he does each day and did a fist pump when he found out that there was no snow day the last time we had a lot of snow.
This experience for my child and the other hundreds of children happens because of an administration and teachers who stand by their training and expert knowledge in developmentally appropriate and child-respectful teaching and learning.
The brains of third graders today are the same as the brains of third graders eleven years ago which is the same as the brains of third graders decades ago. Children’s brains have not changed.
What has changed is US educational policy, and it’s current obsession with placing blame for lack of achievement in some children on the backs of teachers, administrators and ironically, on children themselves. Creating high stakes tests will not solve the problem of low educational achievement. Giving third graders a reading passage from Tolstoy – like the practice test that’s on the NYS Education Department website- (which is written at a 5th – 7th grade reading level) will NOT help children be smarter, perform better and be more ready for college- no matter how many boxes with definitions you put on the page.
Addressing poverty on a systemic and policy level and funding our public educational system adequately and equitably will begin to solve this problem. Creating conditions where teachers can teach the whole child, in developmentally appropriate ways, with inspiring and engaging content and experiences will begin to boost achievement for all children.
- Because of a developmentally appropriate curriculum, my eight year old knows how to explain his thinking to solve math word problems using multiple strategies.
- Because of a developmentally appropriate curriculum, my eight year old studied biomes at his recent class trip to the Botanic Gardens which directly ties into their current study of African geography.
- Because of a developmentally appropriate curriculum, my eight year old asks to partner dance merengue and salsa with me, and proudly logs miles each week through the Mighty Milers running program.
- Because of developmentally appropriate assessments, my eight year old picks books that are “just right” for his reading level because his teacher does running record reading assessments with him every few weeks and tells him what his reading level is.
- Because of a developmentally appropriate curriculum, my child understands that school is a community of diverse learners and he knows that he can both learn from and teach everyone he comes into contact with all day long.
Every third grader deserves “A Day in the Life of a Third Grader” like what my child and Claudia experienced and I am proud to stand up as a parent and say that I will not subject him to a test that will give us NO information about his knowledge and is in no way appropriate for an eight year old. I stand in solidarity with educators, testing experts and the thousands of other parents in New York State who are standing up for children, teachers, and real learning.