The Week in Education News 8/24/15

The Week in Education News 8/24/15

Your Week in Education by Danielle Bonnici

Thanks, but no thanks….

Over 200,000 middle schools students in New York State declined to sit for Common Core test this year- four times the amount who refused last year. Initially, it was believed that school districts where less than 95% of the students who took the test would be penalized by losing state funds, but this week, state officials decided that schools would not be punished. This puts an end to a period of uncertainty, when school districts did not know how the state would react.

Losing District Money?

Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the Board of  Regents said, “I think when you withdraw money from a school district, what you’re doing is you’re hurting the kids in the school district, so I don’t think that’s an effective way to deal with it.” This decision came as a surprise to some because the lack of participation is making it difficult to analyze data to see if schools actually are improving.

Whom do tests Benefit?

Tisch also stated that although the schools won’t be punished, that without annual testing “the progress of our neediest students may be ignored or forgotten, leaving these students to fall further behind.” She, and supporters of the testing, argue that standardized tests are beneficial for low income students.

A statement from the NAACP said: “When parents ‘opt out’ of tests — even when out of protest for legitimate concerns — they’re not only making a choice for their own child, they’re inadvertently making a choice to undermine efforts to improve schools for every child.”

Their concerns reflect the fact the most of the children opting out are from white, middle, and upper class backgrounds who have the luxury of refusing tests. Arne Duncan, the federal education secretary also expressed his concern about opting out. He believes the tests are crucial for measuring the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students.

Who’s at Fault?

Many place the blame for this lack of participation on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to base teacher evaluations on test scores, causing teachers and parents to join together against testing.  The Governor, in an almost resigned statement, said that ultimately, whether or not students sit for tests is up to the parents. This reflects the pressure that has been put on officials to not touch the opt-out movement, as there are no laws prohibiting parents from refusing to let their children take the exams.

Loy Gross, the founder of United to Counter the Core, says “I think parents who are most informed and educated about the nature of the tests are the very parents who are opting out.” She implies that more parents need to know about the true nature of the testing, and how it is being used to manipulate the students and teachers.

More Testing, Less Teachers?

This news seems to go with last week’s news about the teacher shortage- more testing, less teachers. Maybe the lawmakers should listen to the rallying cry of those who leave the profession to give teachers more autonomy over policy. After all, teachers are on the front line- they know what works and what doesn’t, and as the opt-out movement grows, maybe policy-makers should be listening to them.

And in GOP news…

The Common Core also has an enemy in the Republican Party. Many conservative voters are against the Common Core, making it a huge topic amongst presidential hopefuls. Jeb Bush, a Republican candidate from Florida called the Common Core “poisonous.”  Candidate Carly Fiorina believes that what started as way to raise standards has become profit driven to benefit “testing companies [and] textbook companies.”

Bush and Fiorina are not alone in their attacks on the Common Core. Many other Republicans, including Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Bobby Jindal have changed their positions.  Jindal says the Common Core has become a “top-down, one-size-fits-all approach” that does not benefit students.

As it stands, only 37% of Republicans support the Common Core, as opposed to over 50% of Democrats. On the other hand, in a strange twist, most liberals and teachers agree with the Republicans that Common Core is hurting both students and teachers rather than helping them.

All hail Finland, again….

It seems that more play and less class is actually beneficial to students, reports Debbie Rhea, the dean of Nursing and Health Sciences at Harris College, in the Washington Post. In the US, the average student is in class for seven straight hours, sometimes without a break. In Finland, students get an outdoor play break after every 45 minute class, and in East Asia, students get a ten minute break for every 40 minutes spent in class. She argues that children are meant to move around and play, because it allows kids to expend excess energy, thereby improving their mind-body connection.

Many studies have shown that when any human being sits for longer than 20 minutes, the brain begins to be robbed of oxygen and glucose, slowing down brain activity and preventing neurons from firing. The brain just goes to sleep.

Play is Good for your Brain

Imagine sitting for seven hours without a break when you’re a small child- your brain just turns off and tunes out! Studies repeatedly show that when children have good physical health their language and problem solving skills and capability for risk management increases dramatically.

Playing is just plain healthy for kids, not just physically, but academically and emotionally. Kids who play more are more disciplined and more focused in the classroom. They also showed a marked difference in the academics compared to kids who weren’t playing.

Recess, anyone? 

Danielle Bonnici is a program coordinator at CITE. Danielle is a certified teacher with nine years of experience teaching high school in New York City and abroad. She also loves yoga.

CITE is the Center for Integrated Training and Education . For over 25 years, CITE has and continues to train TEACHERS (Early Childhood, Literacy, Special Ed, Grad Courses, DASA); COUNSELORS (School, Mental Health Masters, Advanced Certificate); and ADMINISTRATORS (SBL, SDL, Public Admin, Online PhD) in all five boroughs of NYC, Yonkers, and Long Island.

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