A testing maelstrom is inundating education today in America. More specifically, I’m referring to the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which states that any third-grade child who has not attained “proficient” in reading on the Ohio Achievement Assessments must be retained.
As a retired elementary school teacher, I am worried about the future of education. Every university education program begins with child psychology to ensure that the developmental concerns of children sitting in our classrooms are understood. I can imagine the new courses that will be written for upcoming education majors, such as “Overcoming Failure at the Elementary Level.”
How can we expect children to become successful citizens if they are learning from an early age that they don’t measure up? In the beginning of my career, I was allotted sufficient time to immerse my students in all their lessons.
But since the No Child Left Behind initiative, the focus on testing has increased. In addition to the major Ohio Achievement Assessments, there are a myriad of other tests to be administered (bimonthly progress monitoring, computer and weekly reading tests, for example). There is not enough time in the day to teach all subjects well if so much testing time continues to interrupt. Ask teachers what their greatest difficulty is, and they will say: “I don’t have enough time to teach!”
The added pressure for teachers is that their students’ performance reflects on their own evaluations. Evaluations are needed, but I found myself having to resist the urge to “teach to the test.”
This became very difficult as the stakes were raised, including students being retained.
Despite the gains made for individual students, I knew they had one day to prove to the state that they deserved the label “proficient.” Talk about pressure. The curriculum from kindergarten through third grade needs to be challenging, but “testing trauma” should not be introduced until the latter elementary years.
If we continue on this path of telling our 8- and 9-year-old children they “do not measure up,” it will result in a group of dispirited children feeling like failures.
There are options to retention to address students’ weaknesses. Having students repeat third grade based on one number is not a good foundation for them believing that education is a viable path.
Absurd view ?of corporations
The claim last week before the U.S. Supreme Court that a for-profit arts and craft corporation, Hobby Lobby, possesses religious beliefs is the latest absurdity in the notion that corporations are “persons” with inalienable constitutional rights.
Hobby Lobby’s owners certainly have a right to religious freedom under the First Amendment, but their corporation does not. As a creation of the state, for-profit corporations are legally separate from their owners.
While certain laws shield religious groups from complying with particular federal statutes, Hobby Lobby is not a religious group or connected to one. The religious beliefs of its owners, who oppose the Affordable Care Act provision for providing contraceptives to women, are not applicable.
A Supreme Court ruling favorable to Hobby Lobby later this year would not only be an assault on common sense, but also an admission that artificial legal entities are spiritual.
It would also no doubt be an assault on a variety of democratically enacted health, safety and civil rights laws protecting people and communities, if such laws violated a corporation’s “religion.”
The bizarre time we live in where money equals speech and corporations are persons would become all the more preposterous if the court concludes that corporations can practice religion.
Northeast Ohio American Friends
Responsibility ?and regulation
There have been many letters and commentaries recently about individual freedom and the need to reduce regulations.
With freedom comes responsibility to do the right thing to fellow citizens and to the environment. Unfortunately, too many people ignore their responsibilities, and the government has to step in with regulations to prevent harm to others and the environment.
A good example was when the Bush administration was lax in regulating Wall Street, and we had the worst economic shutdown since the 1920s.
Fortunately, President Obama took office just after the crisis, and with the stimulus package and other moves, was able to turn the economy around. We had a severe recession rather than a deep, catastrophic depression.
Since then, more regulations have been issued to prevent similar disasters. Manufacturers have been fined for wrongdoing.
Just recently the Toyota Motor Co. agreed to pay about $1.2 billion in fines for delaying a recall. General Motors now finds itself in the same situation.
One can only hope that these companies and others like them will learn to mend their ways. One thing is certain: As the greed factor continues to drive our business leaders, there will be more such indiscretions by companies and individuals. Therefore, it is necessary, no, mandatory, to keep these new regulations in place.
James H. Trapkin