Across New York City, third-grade children are taking assessment tests that have caused a great deal of anxiety for students, teachers, administrators, parents, lawmakers and anyone else directly or indirectly involved in a child's education.
And it's absolutely the wrong way to evaluate the city's student population.
High-stakes testing is one of the ugliest aspects of school reform. It holds children to an unrealistic standard that they will all be able to achieve at an equal level. It makes administrators – and fortunately not teachers by name, for now – accountable for a flux of variables they cannot control.
In an ideal society, every student starts on an equal footing, but that's just not the case. The grades students are in are essentially arbitrary – in third grade, developmentally, a difference of 11 months could be a big deal – and there could still be undiagnosed learning disabilities or native language barriers.
The Department of Education does not do a good job of informing parents, many of whom do not speak English, of their opt-put rights so the rate of students taking the test is significantly higher than outside the five boroughs.
It's not that the system needs tweaks, it's that it simply needs to be scrapped.
When Governor Andrew Cuomo decided earlier this year that the test would not be used as part of teacher evaluations, it wasn't just a win for teachers but for the state's education system. It puts unfair and unreasonable pressure on an eight-year-old to be accountable for his or her teacher's job and livelihood.
There's no argument that pushing students to achieve at a higher level is a good thing, and those gains need to be measured. Standards should be raised all the time and teachers should aim to get the most our of their students.
It just seems like two weeks of testing is the easy way out for some lawmakers and higher-ups who don't really want to get involved.