To Bill and Melinda Gates:
I would like to thank for your years of supporting education and schools around the world. But at this time, I do not think that you are supporting education in the United States with your misguided support of high-stakes testing and the Common Core Standards.
As a teacher for 27 years of students with disabilities, socio-economic issues and parenting issues, and a parent of 3 boys who have been round pegs in square holes, I REQUEST that you stop promoting high-stakes testing and blaming teachers for any and all issues in the education system of the United States.
The major problem is NOT the teachers, who are dedicated professionals working against many issues, but THE BELIEF that ALL children are the same with the same abilities, backgrounds, and intelligence, and educating that them is a business. Students come in all shapes and sizes and as such should be treated to meet their individual needs. There are many different ways that teachers, as professionals, can assess students progress from portfolios, to performance based assessments, to paper-pencil tests. All of these assessments do not place the stress of achieving on students or teachers as our current high-stakes assessments do, but they do give an accurate learning profile of students as individuals.
Students should not be PUNISHED because they don’t learn the same way or at the same speed as others. They should not be PUNISHED because they cannot take a test and achieve a level that they are not ready for in their learning life. They should not be PUNISHED because the academics they are being taught are beyond their abilities either intellectually or emotionally. Not ALL students are college bound, although that is the premise of the education system in the United States. (That is not to say that anyone that wants and is capable should not have the option of attending college.) We need to support ALL STUDENTS of all ABILITY levels educationally and this needs to include vocationally–like many other countries do already.
I have one example to share: The State of Florida has deemed 147 words per minute as a “fluent” reader for grades 6-8. ***Fluency being the ability to read a grade-level passage with a good speed, accuracy and prosody(emotion).***While I do not have a specific problem with students at that grade level reading at 147 words per minute, I DO have a problem stating that a student who is not reading at 147 words per minute is not a fluent reader. I have had many students that can read 147 words per minute with very little prosody and cannot answer a comprehension question based on the given passage, and I have had students that read at 120 words per minute with perfect accuracy and prosody who can answer any question posed to them. Which student is then the MOST FLUENT READER??
This is the problem with high-stakes testing and the Common Core Standards. Putting all the students into one INPUT and expecting the same OUTPUT is unrealistic and unfair to all involved.
Please open up a dialogue with people who are actually in the trenches daily–TEACHERS–and not with others who THINK they KNOW what is BEST for EDUCATION.
Cynthia D Pelosi, M.S., N.B.C.T.