Part of every POB Board of Education meeting agenda has Board members making announcements. They routinely talk about visits they have made to the schools, accomplishments of the district’s students and assorted other things that confirm their dedication to being Board members and celebrate the district’s accomplishments. It’s not a part of the meeting that I tend to pay attention to.
Last night, however, Board President Gary Bettan shocked me from my habitual reverie. Announcing that he was speaking only for himself, Bettan read a carefully prepared statement protesting the harmful effects of high stakes state testing. “It is so frustrating that politics and corporate profits are the driving force in NY State’s race to high stakes testing. I’m all for accountability, but if you can’t trust the standardized tests, how can you trust the results?” Bettan went on to say, “These tests are loaded with trick questions and ambiguous passages. I fear that we are testing our kids’ ability to take tests, not their knowledge of what they have learned.”
It was heartening to see a member of the Board of Education take a public stand on what is emerging as the central issue facing New York’s public schools. If we are ever to end the mindless testing that is being passed off as education reform, it is going to take the forming of a grand coalition of teachers, Board of Education members, administrators and parents all standing up for the children of our state and demanding that our political leaders put children ahead of corporate profits and learning ahead of testing. We all need to summon the courage Bettan did last evening.