A New Message from Dr. Don Sternberg (Author of the famed 'Dear Parents' Letter)

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Dear Colleagues and Friends of Quality Educational Reform,

Thank you for your overwhelmingly positive comments and support based upon the 'letter to parents' I wrote. 

My letter was but a single scream into the onslaught of a hurricane or a small snowball rolling down a mountain. What is needed are thousands of letters and/or emails. To date, my letter has generated over 66,691 'hits.' 

If each person reading and supporting the concepts in the letter were to write a letter and/or email to our Governor, a letter and/or email to the NYS Board of Regents, and a letter and/or email to the NYS Commissioner of Education, we will be well on our way to creating that cascade of snowballs. And if each of you would just get five other people to write.....think avalanche! 

The principals, teachers' unions, and the superintendents of our state have all tried, in vain, to present a logical and reasonable resistance to the statistical analysis processes that is now driving educational reform in our state. Statisticians are now running the educational reform movement, not educators. The only recourse left and our last resort is a direct letter campaign to the bureaucratic heads of the state and the SED.

 

For example, the Niagara Regional PTA passed an emergency resolutionhttp://roundtheinkwell.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/ptaresolution2.pdf to submit at the New York State PTA convention this fall. The resolution calls for a move away from 3-8 testing and the elimination of teacher and principal evaluation by test scores. If all of our local PTAs would support this resolution it would be huge. Please contact them!

I have attached two exemplars of a possible letter that might serve as the genesis of your letter. If you supported the concepts outlined in my letter to parents, please take the next step and roll your own snowball down the hill and become a part of the avalanche!

Exemplar #1

Exemplar #2

Don Sternberg, Ed.D.

Principal

Wantagh Elementary School

1765 Beech Street

Wantagh, New York 11793-3456

sternbergd@wantaghschools.org

Views: 5384

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Comment by Dr. Michael L. Cubbin on April 13, 2013 at 3:17pm

Dear Dr. Sternberg,

I found your name on the "More than a number" website and followed the link back to this letter. I see this blog states, "If each person reading and supporting the concepts in the letter..." but says nothing of what to do if we do not agree with the "more testing is bad" philosophy. Having been a doctor in private practice for many years, and having taken oodles of tests to get there, I am always perplexed as to why are so many educators opposed to standardized testing. I have also taught English in China and live in Great Neck, where my daughter attends school. But for the past 14 years I have been a science teacher (chemistry) in the city.

We currently have teachers "apologizing" to students for having to put them through the pains of taking the Regents exams - even before the tests are given! I told a colleague that my daughter was given a packet of work to complete over the spring break in preparation for the 5th Grade exams. In front of a handful of students, he attempted to "mock" me for supporting that idea and joked that I would probably download another for my daughter to complete. (I downloaded two more which took my daughter a whopping 3 hours to do over a 1 1/2 week vacation. She had no problem with these and in fact asked if there were any more. Do you think that is weird, Doctor?)

I teach science. I see the testing conundrum through the "lens" of the Scientific Method. We have yet to do the experiment (massive expanded testing) yet we have teachers crying wolf over their inability to teach students the necessary information to pass the test. I am in a 100% Spanish-speaking ELL high school where students have been here an average of 3-4 years. I do not speak Spanish - only English and Chinese. Our average passing rate is roughly 20-25% (thought this year with off-campus grading I anticipate those numbers to be in the single digits or teens.) In spite of those numbers, last year every one of my chemistry students passed the Regents. Yes, 100% of my students passed the Regents. This is why they direct deposit every two weeks.

Many wanted to know how I did it. Simple, the same way I taught Earth science for 8 years (in NYC) and had only 3 students fail. I move through the scope and sequence (my curriculum) at a brisk pace that leaves me about 6 weeks to go through mock exams in my classroom every week. Monday & Tuesday, they take the test. W-TH-F, we go over it. We do not always have time to finish them, but every Monday we start a new one. Simple.

For many teachers, this time is spent complaining about how "unfair" and "unjust" and "just plain wrong" these tests are without spending more time trying to "beat the test." (Beating the test is what I teach to my students.)

But as I said, I see the "testing issue" as an experiment. Unfortunately, most teachers are not doing the experiment - just jumping to conclusions. They are throwing their hands up and proclaiming to anyone who will listen (students included) that high stakes testing is just plain wrong. You have your doctorate. Were the tests you took to achieve that sheepskin "unfair" or "unjust"? Should everybody be entitled to a B.A. or a B.S. or a Masters, or a Doctorate? I have friends and relatives who are Asian. Doctor, they are laughing at us. While our American teachers complain about how tough the tests are (and let's be honest, they're not) they are having their children do homework at the table, not playing video games until 2am and printing extra material off the computer. This is in addition to finding all kinds of free material online. So what do we say to them? "You are wrong!" "Don't you know how unfair those tests are?" "Why can't you be more like us... and just complain?" The vast majority of my past Asian & Indian students have attended colleges (Harvard to MIT) and I have never heard one of them complain about the tests. So why are teachers doing it?

I would think that unless teachers "do the experiment" using all materials available, and THEN come to a conclusion that will either support or disprove the validity of these measures, then they are arriving at an incorrect conclusion from an uneducated point of view.

In conclusion, allow me one final question. Is it possible that the problem is not in fact the tests, but the teachers who are unable to teach the material they were hired to teach?

Respectfully yours,

Dr. Michael Cubbin

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