Wednesday, June 20, 2007

NY Daily News - Voice of the People: Students Becoming Test-taking Robots

As a legislator and as a father of two New York City public school students, I am deeply troubled by the recent announcement by Chancellor Joel Klein that city public school students will take four to five additional tests per subject each year.

Separate from the city's testing, the state gives annual exams to students in grades 3 through 8 in order to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

Our children do not need to spend more time preparing for and taking standardized tests.

The emphasis on testing is turning our schools into test preparation factories that neglect physical education, art, music and science in favor of rote test preparation drills. New York City's children are going to school in the cultural capital of the world, and focusing on test preparation limits opportunities for exploring the rich art, music and civic experiences that the city offers.

The narrow focus on specific test subject matter denies students access to a broader curriculum.

Today's classrooms rarely devote time to current events, yet we expect the next generation to understand an ever-changing world and to grapple with the weighty issues of our era. Education should help our children to become informed citizens, dynamic leaders and well-rounded individuals, not test-taking robots.

The city's plan for more testing is a step in the wrong direction. Let's aim for a comprehensive approach to academic assessment. Schools should use a variety of tools, including tests, writing samples and teacher-designed evaluations, to assess student achievement. More testing does not mean more learning; on the contrary, it means less learning.

Mark Weprin
Member of N.Y. state Assembly