Letters (April 2-9)

mailWhy opt out of standardized tests

It is testing season in New York. There are concerned parents who, for various reasons, are opting out their children from these tests. In the Saugerties School district any parent whose child opts out will be subject to the district’s “sit and stare policy.” This means the children in grades 3 to 8 will have to sit with the test booklet in front of them and do nothing but stare for an hour and a half for each day of the test; three days each for both the ELA and math assessment. Concerned parents like myself have spoken out on the subject to the Board of Education (BOE) and I started an online petition asking the them to have an emergency session to reconsider the district’s sit and stare policy since the next scheduled meeting is on the first day of testing. Parents and concerned tax payers are outraged to learn that a child would be subject to this. Many have asked why can’t the student sit in the back of the classroom and read? I find it hard to believe that more people aren’t outraged over this policy, and the only reasons I could find is that residents are unaware of the policy and are misinformed on why a parent would choose to opt their child out. Here are some of my reasons for opting my children out:

The material is written at a grade level 2-3 times higher than what the child is expected to read.

Each child’s data will be collected, stored in a “cloud” and used without the parent’s permission.

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Gov. Cuomo wants to have teacher evaluations to be based on 50% of the test results This will only result in more testing of students as teachers are forced to “teach to the test.” It is also unfair to have teachers evaluations based on one test, when a child’s educational growth happens throughout the year and in many different facets of learning not just English and Math.

The teachers do not get the test results until the following school is started, making them useless in aiding in instruction.

The tests are created by Pearson Publishing, who has gained a dangerous amount of control of education in New York State via their publishing of the tests, text books, software, teacher evaluations, GED exams, and the tests required to become a teacher. Person was recently in the news for using software to spy on students’ use of social media and demand districts punish students talking about the test.

Where is the local control?

You may have seen Saugerties School districts Superintendent Turner’s letter “Think test refusal doesn’t do any harm.” Everyone should also read Anna Shah’s rebuttal to this letter, which was posted on saugertiesx.com. It provides a counterpoint to all of Mr. Turner’s claims. Every Saugerties School District taxpayer should be well informed on both sides of the issue.

Andrea Burch
Saugerties

 

Who’s afraid of taxpayers?

Saugerties taxpayers spent tens of millions of dollars on education what have we learned? We have learned that some people, who benefit from those school taxes, think Saugerties voters are a potential threat and shouldn’t be anywhere near children. Newsflash: Many of the threats and harm to students come from students. Mentally disturbed, over-medicated, under-medicated, separated from family and society, and/or “bullied” individuals.  I’ve yet to read of the person (or persons)committing these crimes diagnosed as an “irate taxpayer.” Saugerties’ taxpayers certainly have not been getting critical thinking for their education dollars.

If those who fear the Saugerties taxpayers are to be consistent, they must also ban them from all other school events, such as French Club, Christmas concerts, Lip Sync, etc. And certainly all sporting events!

A.E. Wasserbach
Saugerties

 

Editor’s note: The School Board recently voted to move a superintendent’s conference day to coincide with the budget and trustee vote to ensure students wouldn’t be in the building that day, citing safety concerns.  

 

Sit & stare policy for test opt-outs is punitive

“‘Sit and Stare’ is a practice used in prisons to discipline inmates. Is this how we want our children treated? Like prison inmates? We continue to urge the Saugerties School Board to support families who refuse to participate in this political and cultural artifact.” — Christina James Ramirez Mooney, via saugertiesx.com

“The sit and stare policy – is not healthy for children. Removal of opportunity to move about, speak or constructively learn at school is essentially a ‘time -out’ or punishment. Removal of stimulus is a form of discipline. In a disciplinary situation a typical time out will last for 3-15 minutes. It is psychologically damaging to require a child who has done nothing wrong to sit and stare for extended periods. This form of social disapproval, and removal of stimuli, is considered ‘punishment’ and in order to be implemented in a school it needs to be in a behavior plan and approved by the child’s treatment team, guardian and a psychologist, and demonstrate measurable benefit to the child. The Saugerties School Board should reconsider this policy because it could psychologically harm children, and land the district in legal hot water.” Kelly Myers, via saugertiesx.com

 

Divided we fall

While I haven’t been directly involved in the issue, It is disturbing to me as a retired educator and counselor, to read about the adversarial battles stirring between Saugerties parents, teachers, school administrators and the Board of Education over federal testing regulations coming down from Albany. This is not unlike the blame cast upon local elected officials for tax increases due to unfunded mandates from state government. I believe that it is counterproductive to continue to “eat our own” when a unified message of concern from Saugerties must be sent to the governor. There is weakness in remaining divided. Zephyr Teachout, a recent candidate for governor, echoed my feelings when she stated:

“The fight about public education in New York is on the one hand a debate between the ideology of hedge funders and middle class values. It is a fight about whether the state truly has an obligation to provide a free and public education to every child. But it is also a fight about who we are as people, what children are, what teachers are. I believe people are complex and motivated by passion, curiosity, community and a desire to bring others along. Ambition, creativity, a desire to know and understand, a desire for small masteries. The Cuomo-hedge fund-Pearson-privatizing camp appears to believe that teachers will be best motivated by fear, and children by teachers under threat, under-resourced. So this is a fight for democracy, but also for the dignity of all the people that make it up.”

Mike Harkavy
Saugerties

 

No loser

In the March 26 issue of your paper Hugh Reynolds, responding to me running for the Legislature in District 2 as an Independent candidate separate of party affiliation, said, “Independents don’t beat anybody.” He also said of my campaign, “it will probably be a quixotic quest for redemption.” Reynolds, obviously a fan of Cervante’s novel, “Don Quixote,” a controversial but famous novel written in the 1500s, misses the point and pulls away from the subject. Mike Schovel, ran as an Independent won overwhelmingly for Saugerties town supervisor and George Homes did the same for two or three terms.

Quixotism is the universal quality of any visionary action and acts of reform are quixotic so call me a “visionary reformist” not a loser.

Robert Aiello
Saugerties