Featured Letter: Why is there no constructive option to opting out?

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04/24/2015 6:00 AM |

To the editor:

Superintendent Gamberg’s outspoken efforts against the current New York State tests have helped highlight what is wrong with the current state of education. I am certainly no fan of standardized tests and applaud efforts to fight for better solutions. I do take issue with the idea that the proposed action is simply to “opt out.”

Why are our local, vocal leaders not providing something to which we can opt into? Show us better alternatives — both to the time lost to testing and with regard to teacher evaluation.

Wouldn’t a student-focused educator propose an alternative, engaging curriculum for the week? If Mr. Gamberg really wanted to show that schools don’t need outside validation from some standardized nonsense, use this as an opportunity to flex a little. The best movements, those that have lasting effect and earn a place in history, have provided an alternative to the status quo. This movement as applied by our school this week has instead provided a silent auditorium.

Here we have 12 hours of budgeted teaching time, which could have been programmed with a dynamic series of discussions and debates on the role of protest in American history. From the Sons of Liberty and the fight for “No Taxation without Representation,” Susan B. Anthony violating laws to vote as a woman, Rosa Parks’ audacity to sit down like a human being and conscientious objectors’ refusal to join wars they ideologically opposed to more recent actions by Occupy Wall Streeters, our glorious history as a country is largely based on the battle for freedoms and the tug of war between those who want yesterday and who want tomorrow.

We had an opportunity to provide rigorous debate and intellectual growth, but instead the administration offered our children the chance to sit in an auditorium for 12 hours of silent reflection.

I have little doubt that, given the choice between a more dynamic week of learning vs. standardized testing, Mr. Gamberg and his team would have been able to show even more complete opt-out numbers.

Without a better option as to how to spend two hours a day, I suggest students take the tests. Perhaps they will gain a bit of life experience or at the very least become more confident in testing situations. There will no doubt be occasions in the years ahead that they will be faced with a test from which they cannot opt out.

If they get absolutely nothing out of the experience, then they will have gained exactly what the proposed alternative provides.

Ian Wile, Greenport

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