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Wayne Post
  • BENJAMIN WACHS: State's setting kids up to fail

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  • By Benjamin Wachs
    The New York State Education Department warned us that the unveiling of the new Common Core standards would be bad. And it was, much in the way that an earthquake is bad. The difference, of course, is that earthquakes arenít preventable.
    After the shockingly low test results came in, school systems around New York reported an unprecedented demand for the mandatory tutoring services offered to kids who fail the tests. Which is good, right? We want students who are struggling in school to come in for tutoring. Thatís exactly what they should do.
    The problem is that with so many students coming in for help, many districts canít afford to pay for tutors to meet demand.
    So how did the New York State Board of Regents respond? Earlier this month,† it approved a plan allowing districts to tutor fewer kids.
    Thatís right, fewer.
    Rather than giving school districts the resources to tutor the many children who needed help, the regents decided to offer districts the ďflexibilityĒ (thatís how they put it) to turn more children away.
    So letís review our story so far:
    ó†As a result of the terrible implementation of new standardized texts, more children are told they need immediate academic help.
    ó Because so many children ask for this help, thereís a budget crisis.
    ó Because thereís a budget crisis, schools are told they can offer fewer students academic help.
    ó Fewer failing students are now getting academic help.
    Hmmmmmm Ö how do you think this will turn out?
    Remember this moment, please. Remember this moment the next time the State Education Department says (and there will be a next time) that standards need to be tightened and that we need more tests and that they need to be more rigorous.
    Remember that they came up with excuses for why kids who were failing the last round of tests didnít need tutoring; that they empowered school districts to†let more kids fall through the cracks.
    Remember this, so that youíll know: The problem isnít, and never has been, that the tests arenít rigorous enough, or the standards arenít tough enough. Thatís an excuse.
    The problem is that kids who we know need help donít get it.
    The problem is that testing has become an excuse for not teaching.
    The problem is that the cracks for students to fall through are only getting wider.
    Because the truth is that, by and large, we know what helps at-risk kids thrive in school. It takes a community of adults with high standards working directly with the kids, often one-to-one, often in small groups, to help light a lasting fire in their minds.
    Page 2 of 2 - That takes resources. That takes a mass effort. Itís hard work and a constant struggle. But it works, and itís often the only thing that does.
    New Yorkís strategy, for some 18 years now, has been to go the other direction.
    New York believes in emphasizing testing over teachers, in substituting standardized exams for one-to-one connections, and imposing arbitrary standards for the ones that students might find meaningful themselves.
    The stateís impulse, revealed again this month for everyone to see, is to reduce the resources available to students rather than meeting their needs ó to put the good of the system over the good of the kids.
    Of course itís not working. It was never going to work. Thereís no way that more testing and less tutoring ever gets you there.
    This is another wholly preventable disaster in the making.
    Benjamin Wachs writes for Messenger Post Media, and archives his work at www.TheWachsGallery.com. Email him at Benjamin@Fiction365.com.
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