Schools must resort to drill and skill instruction

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Dear Editor:

Local school boards and administrators should publicly defend quality education and oppose high stakes standardized testing.

Since the Academic Performance Index (API) results were recently released (by the California Department of Education) schools have become acutely aware of the pressures to teach students to prepare for next year’s standardized tests, known as the CAT 6.

The pressure of testing causes anxiety among students, teachers and administrators alike.

Studies show that racial and ethnic minorities and low-income students receive lower test scores, while students of affluent backgrounds with college educated parents are more likely to receive higher test scores.

Yet, students from such contrasting backgrounds are expected to achieve at the same levels.

School districts have become obsessed with testing, on a level that has never been experienced before anywhere in the world.

Standardized high stakes testing is a punitive system that publicly embarrasses school districts and schools and follows up with threats and cuts in funding. It once offered financial awards to high achieving schools, which the state couldn’t afford to continue.

It rewards schools and teachers for having favorable demographics, while punishing schools consisting of mainly African-American, Latino, Native American, and low-income students.

Now school districts are resorting to drill and skill instruction.

Some have opted to spend money on test preparation materials so that students will be able to fill in bubbles correctly and know how to answer test questions.

Teachers are being pressured statewide to restrict their teaching to focus on the basics. Some students are being restricted to reading, writing and math instruction, while denied art, music, social studies and science.

Rather than standards that are based on research that shows what children need to grow academically, the current politically driven shifts in education – including President Bush’s recently passed No Child Left Behind act – serve to dumb down the curriculum and are not beneficial to the academic development of students.

We test students in April and receive the results in August or September. What good is this information? We need authentic assessments that help teachers assess students and assess their own teaching so that students will benefit from the results and not to punish educators and students.

The Hollister School District and San Benito High School boards of trustees, and local administrators should join the San Francisco, Los Angeles and other school districts in demanding authentic assessment of students and protest high stakes standardized testing.

As educators we all have an obligation to work for quality instruction that encourages inquiry and educates students to become creative thinkers and problem solvers.

Joe Navarro

Sunnyslope School teacher

Hollister

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