Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dear Gov Cuomo - just dropping you a note about our schools

Dear Governor Cuomo;

I wanted to write to you to add to the many voices you are hearing from regarding the direction that the education agenda is going in New York State.

I will begin by saying that I am all for standards and holding people accountable.  I believe that the majority of teachers dedicate themselves and always have because they too have these principles.  I see the usefulness in having schools follow a national curriculum and in the never ending evolution of how and what students are taught.

However, the discussion is no longer focused on these things and therefore, no longer about the children.  It is no longer about reinforcing and rewarding great performance but rather about negative and punitive methods that neither reflects a progressive approach nor has it ever been proven to be effective in any setting.

I have no objection to students taking tests and I actually will not opt out my children even if I feel that the testing is neither developmentally appropriate or indicative of their ability.  In taking the tests they will also learn that at times they will have to do things that are difficult, not useful but mandated and that life is not always about what is actually logical or fair.  In writing this letter I will teach them that we are privileged to live in a country where it can be written and sent.

If one were to review the countries who do well on standardized tests,  like many of the Asian countries, you would see that rely on a workforce that does and can manufacture rather than on a workforce that develops through it's ingenuity.  We do not need to be European or South American or any other place we need to educate our children to compete in those job markets and have an advantage not just be next in line.  We came here from all of those places for opportunities and to make a positive difference to this country that opened it's doors to us. Our grandparents, parents, we all worked and continue to work hard to ensure our children all have more opportunities and continue to add to the fabric of the US and the greatest asset we can give them is an education. We can learn from all of those places but not need to replicate any one of them.

My family and I currently live in town that thrives in it's diversity.  We are a town of various levels of education, income, ethnicities, religions, lack of religions, mixture of all of these, homogenous, same sex, traditional, bohemian families and single people.  We pay taxes that are high to have schools that educate our children but also are open to educate the children of those who can only rent and work hard to do even that.  We chose to live here because the children are taught more than how to pass a test and instead are taught how to live well with one another, how to do community service, how to hear a multitude of languages and then speak respectfully to each other.   We are Americans by choice or by birth and we are Ossining proud of the many science competition awards our high school gets, of the sports achievements, the National music recognition and for the adults our children will become because this is all part of their education along with math, reading and other standardized lessons.  Our test scores do not reflect these accomplishments because they are too limited for the limitless possibilities we expose all the children of this town to.  Our scores are good but our teachers are great.

We make it work and we work together to help each other out when emergencies strike, like raising funds for a family that lost all in a home fire, offers on our Ossining Moms page to take children when one of schools experienced a power outage and a strong PTA that demands the best from our education system and gets in partnership not through coercion.

Imagine if this town decided to randomly pick only one policy you passed this year, without your input, and because we are intelligent, dedicated people designed our own scoring system of this policy.  Imagine if then we judged you just on this one policy without taking into consideration external factors or your fellow law makers.  Then we said we could ask you to step down if we found you lacking.  That would be ridiculous !!!!  Even though we are a government of the people by the people we chose you in a majority vote to make good decisions for the people because we know you can. We are not qualified to do something like this just like one test is not a qualifier of a teacher's performance. You like our teachers are the sum of your parts.

Even with all it's imperfections our school system in this state and nationwide celebrates achievement and has achieved much.   We need to help those schools that our failing not fail those children in them with funding cuts.  We deserve to have great teachers who deserve our respect and our understanding that they can create a measurement system and will commit to fairly releasing from their ranks those who do not meet the high standards they measure themselves by.  We need to hold ourselves as parents, caregivers accountable to help our children appreciate getting an education.  We need to hold you and the office we elected you accountable to represent our needs and value our opinions not just those of some statistics.

In closing if you have taken the time to read this I thank you for your time and consideration because I can only imagine how difficult your job must be and public service is to be applauded.  The idea that we want to discount a system that has produced people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and many others to meet some "score" is simply just not who we are.  We are free thinkers and the world is better for it.

Please reconsider the hefty weighting you are thinking of giving to one test and instead let our children continue to thrive.  Demonstrate the qualities you want our children to have by working with our teachers and I ask the same of them.  A society whose most needy have the same access to good education as it's most prosperous is bound to become successful and a legacy you will be proud of.

Thank you,

A parent who is raising the future

“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

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