Thank you to Joel L. Naroff for his article about the need for better tools to evaluate charter schools and, indeed, every school in our educational system (“Are charter schools working? It’s anybody’s guess,” April 7).
Egged on by some of the news media, politicians and even many school administrators, the general public clamors only for higher test scores and worries only about whether or not their schools make Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Little is said about the fact that AYP only counts a subset (reading and math) of a school’s overall curriculum. Educators moan to themselves about all that is pushed aside to make more time for the two areas that “count,” but the public tends to view any such complaining from teachers as a self-serving strategy designed to fend off accountability.
Naroff’s call for more accurate ways to measure and evaluate a school’s output points up a need that’s rarely discussed, at least in any public forum. In addition to finding a meaningful way to measure output in terms of real student learning and achievement, it is also important to define what we want students to learn and be able to achieve.
Unfortunately, NCLB and the rush it imposed to improve scores on standardized reading and math tests managed mostly to force discussion about anything else out of consideration. If a content area cannot justify itself by its contribution to building students’ reading or math skills (preferably both), it is in danger of being minimized or eliminated entirely as being superfluous.
I’m not sure the Obama administration’s loosening of the restrictions on what test instruments can be used to establish AYP does very much to mitigate these effects. More serious discussion of the issues Naroff raises is essential if we are to stop careening from one fad cure to another of our education problems.
Karl Krelove, Levittown
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