A highly respected Connecticut teacher has written an open letter to Miquel Cardona, President-elect Biden’s choice for Secretary of Education, and hopes that the letter is the beginning of a state-wide effort to send a petition to Dr. Cardona about improving the teaching and learning in the nation’s schools. Here is that letter:
Dear Commissioner Cardona:
Connecticut is proud that you, our Commissioner of Education, was chosen as the Biden/Harris administration’s Secretary of Education.
Educators support your dedication to: increasing graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity for all students. All educators should be committed to making these goals a reality. America’s children need and deserve this.
However, educators also know that the regime of profit-driven standardized testing will not improve teaching and learning. They never have.
- If educators are forced to teach to a test in order to increase graduation rates, students are merely learning how to take a test. This is antithetical to what 21st-century learning should look like: problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, project-based learning, capstone projects, creativity, and more.
- If schools are pressured to close the achievement gap, but their only tools are computer programs that hold students hostage to rote “learning”, then students are not experiencing rich and meaningful learning. Only 21st-century learning experiences will increase graduation rates that are credible and that actually prepare students for a growingly complex world.
- If equity means giving students in impoverished areas less rich and meaningful learning, by continuing the standardized testing regime, the equity gap will only increase. What students in impoverished areas need is much more of what students in more affluent areas already have. Connecticut’s discriminatory per-pupil expenditure disparity tells the whole, sad story.
Dr. Cardona, what holds schools back from making meaningful progress are ill-conceived federal mandates. These mandates have never improved the quality of teaching and learning. They never will. Test scores may have increased. As well as graduation rates. However, those are meaningless if they are not products of rich and meaningful teaching and learning.
No standardized test can measure 21st-century skills. Hence, standardized tests cannot cultivate the acquisition of those skills.
We ask you, Dr. Cardona, to recommit yourself to the vital goals you have set by shifting the paradigm. Shift how we achieve those goals. That requires ending the testing regime started with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (2002 – 2015) and continued with Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” (2012 – 2016).
We, Dr. Cardona, are asking Connecticut’s teachers, parents, and students to send a strong message to you by refusing the standardized testing planned for this spring.
We are also asking all who oppose the standardized-testing regime to sign this petition, which will be delivered to you, Dr. Cardona.
We are all trying to survive a global pandemic. In my 25 years in the classroom, I have never seen my students so stressed, depressed, and anxious. It is unnecessary and insensitive to add to the weight of their mental health struggles by adding the stress of standardized testing. Also, when thousands of stressed, depressed, and anxious students are forced to take a standardized test, will the results be accurate? Were they ever really accurate? Able to capture what students know and can do? Teachers know the answer: No!
Now is the time to end standardized testing.
A faithful teacher,
Jeannette C. Faber – MS, MALS, EdD