Wednesday, January 7, 2015

So One Size Does Not Fit All Schools

I received an email from Senator George Latimer with the content of this One Size Does Not Fit All Schools article. I don't necessarily disagree, but I take issue with the way he seems to conflate issues, and sidestep any real proposals.

I responded:

Mr. Latimer,

I have to say that it is no that clear to me what you’re actually proposing here with all the metaphors and poor leadership rhetoric. What I’ve picked up from this is that “crushing financial problems and other serious needs” will not be addressed by “more testing and tougher standards,” to which I agree. However, I hope you are not under the impression that testing and standards are meant to address those problems, because they’re not, they are meant to address other problems. Your letter seems to conflate separate issues and treat them as if they’re mutually exclusive, when they’re not.

I’m all for treating students individually when it comes to curriculum, and obviously schools and districts have different issues. However, that doesn’t mean that standards themselves should vary. Allowing localities to set their own standards only incentivizes the lowering of standards, for obvious reasons. My experience has been that most parent complaints are blamed on the state, but are due to decisions that are actually made at the district or school level. For instance, in Rye, where I believe the motto is “academic excellence” the middle school is unwilling to provide a more advanced curriculum for a 6th grader who is not being challenged by the existing curriculum. The school blames this lack of flexibility on the common core, but the common core standards do not prohibit modifying the curriculum. In fact, the common core does not mandate the curriculum at all. Conversely, when a student scores poorly on a state exam the school instructs the family that the state mandates that the student must take remediation classes, which means giving up an elective. You can see why this could be upsetting for parents. However, what the school is telling parents is not the case at all. What the state mandates is that the school must *offer* remediation classes. Lastly, when the state exam results of four classes were deemed invalid, the school board and district stated that it was a state decision and that their hands were tied. However, the state was very clear that the decision to invalidate the exams was solely based on the recommendation of the district. These are all examples of how the schools and districts illegitimately pass the buck to the state and attempt to place the blame on the common core for decisions that are really within their control.

I would love to hear specific proposals for how you would like to see Albany help those schools and districts that need help, and for those schools and districts that are already doing well, what requirements, or “burdens” would you like to remove.

Eric Kamander

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