Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Learning for the Regents or for the Life

As students in the New York City Public Education System, we are required to take a certain number of regents, but real information do we learn when we learn for the regents? Many of my friends from other schools complain about how they are fed up with learning just for the regents. As a student from the Academy of American Studies, I have not had this experience.
For example in my biology class freshman year we begin our class hoping to finish the topic, which my teacher intended to finish covering on a specific day, but instead we end up not even half way through the topic and instead on a related topic that we help us latter on in the future, but will not be covered in our exams.

Not only is this prevalent in biology class but also in our American history classes. We begin to talk about the Great Depression, and end up talking about the current election, and different stands each candidate is taking on a certain issue. This is very helpful to us as students because it molds us to be informed citizens and educated voters in the future. It can also be tied back to the Great Depression by connecting the current state of our economy and relating to that of the late 1920’s, and the different political tactics the presidents used to try to help the country rise up from the depression.

The idea of learning for knowledge should be the focus of the class and not to prepare solely for the regents. I do not condemn testing, because I do feel that it is an important tool in measuring a certain amount of information that the student has retained (although it may not be a correct calculation). While expanding our horizons our teachers were still on track with teaching us what was on the regents and so we were very well prepared for the regents as well like the real world.

1 comment:

J said...

This is what i wrote in my local paper 4 years ago...
Testing kids does not add up to ensuring success
Dear Editor
New York State is failing our students. First we had the prospect of huge education budget cuts that were
averted by the state legislature and now we have the Regents “Math A” Exam fiasco. Because of new
“standards” for graduation this one test can keep well-performing students from getting a diploma this month.
It is being reported that the failure rate on this new test exceeded 50 percent in schools across Long Island even
in high-performing schools. The “Math A” test is a requirement for graduation which means that no matter
how well a student does in class, this test is the final say on graduation. We have student’s futures in question
because of the test this year and seniors preparing to go to college are unsure as to where their graduation
stands. The test is supposed to be a culmination of knowledge obtained in high school but really ends up being
the culmination of late night cramming and tutoring. We are in the era of high-stakes, all or nothing testing of
students starting in the fourth grade.
In Texas where the TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) test has been around for years, students are
so nervous, they are reduced to tears because ONE test will be their mark for future evaluations. The dirty little
secret in Texas is that rising TAAS scores did not come from better education but from systematic exemption of
low performing students. We do not need that to start happening on Long Island. We need to raise students up,
not push them aside.
While we do need standards for grade promotion and graduation we do not need high-stakes tests that force
schools to teach to the test rather than teach for knowledge. A good curriculum coupled with strong teachers and
approved in-school evaluations will help students more than adding state test requirements.
A single test cannot gauge current and future ability or knowledge.
State and city education departments have swung the pendulum towards testing as a be-all, end-all solution
because of years of assaults on public education by uninformed ideologues. In the past couple years
there have been boycotts of standardized tests in Massachusetts, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Scarsdale, NewYork.
These were not just students refusing to take tests but parents and educators backing their decisions and it was
not as though the students were poor performing; Scarsdale is one of the top scoring school districts in the
region. New York State Education Commissioner Mills is a proponent of standardized, high-stakes tests which
means our students will have increased pressure to pass tests and schools will be forced to spend time not
teaching curriculum but teaching test questions because those same tests are also used to gauge school performance. In some states, school funding is based on test scores which forces schools to concentrate on tests rather than education. High-stakes testing promotes fast learning (cramming) and not retention of the material.
Mr. Mills and the Regents board needs to reevaluate the “Math A” test and their whole battery of tests before we have more fiascos like this year and penalize high school seniors for a single test result. Long Island has a history of well-performing schools and will continue to educate with or without these tests. Let’s not waste time and money (and it is a lot of money) on tests when we could better use the funds in the classroom. We need better-educated students and not better test-takers.

John Rennhack