Common core curriculum leads to ’teaching to the test’
Re Thomas J. Donohue and John Engler's Aug. 11 op-ed column, "Tougher school standards benefit education, economy": The problem with common core lies not in the rationale behind it (i.e. to end "disparate state standards and uneven expectations"), but in its implementation.
Throughout the nation, teachers agree that the first round of testing set unreasonably high standards, a fact reflected in the score distributions; perhaps, as Teresa Snyder, superintendent of Voorheesville Central Schools, suggests [in her blog], the purpose of these high standards was to ensure that "subsequent growth over the next few years will indicate that ... plans for elevating the outcomes were necessary. However, it must be recognized that the test developers control the scaled scores ... over the next few years, scores will 'improve' -- not necessarily student learning, but scores" (http://vcsd.neric.org/superintendent/superintendent.htm)."
If so, this leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that lawmakers are more concerned with justifying the millions of dollars spent on implementing common core than on improving the quality of education in America.
At the state level, the situation is even worse -- particularly in New York. Here, in addition to facing these unreasonably high common core standards, students from elementary school to high school undertake various other standardized tests throughout the school year, leaving teachers with little time to cover new material. (Elementary students, for instance, take pre-tests in September and October; progress tests in January; practice tests in March; state tests in April; and post-tests in May and June.)
At the elementary and junior high levels, this results in teachers moving through material at a fast pace in order to cover it all before the (academic) year ends; at the high school level, it results in "teaching to the test" (i.e. the Regents exams). Neither method is productive, but teachers are left with few alternatives.
The effects of standardized testing have already been seen at the high school level, where some students graduate, able to efficiently bubble in the answers to multiple choice questions but lacking necessary analytical and writing skills.
One can only imagine how compounded this problem will become when teachers are forced to "teach to the test" at the elementary and junior high levels, as well.
The writer is a student at Houghton College.
Writer misses point on political ’war on women’
In his Aug. 9 letter, Timothy J. Gaffney Sr. argues that the true "war on women" has been waged by the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party. To support his position he lists a number of examples of Democratic male politicians who have "disrespected" women.
I could construct a similar list of Republican male politicians who have "disrespected" women. However, such lists are irrelevant to the "war on women."
This "war" refers to the efforts of Republican politicians of both genders who are systematically attempting to enact legislation which would limit women's access to legitimate health care, including reproductive health care. This effort is driven by a segment of the population that wishes to impose its religious beliefs on the general population.
Individuals have the right to oppose abortion as personal choice, but they do not have the right to deny others legitimate health care, including abortions.
Amtrak needs to get on board with recycling
While recently traveling coast-to-coast on Amtrak, I noticed the national passenger rail system does no recycling that I could see. At several stops, I saw dining car staff remove bags of mixed trash items from the dining car. On each passenger car are large bags for everything people do not want anymore.
At the end of a 48-hour, 2,000-mile run from Seattle to Chicago, Amtrak staff walked through the mostly empty cars and picked up all the visible "trash." One noticed a used copy of the "Empire Builder," a 32-page brochure about the route, in the seat pocket in front of me, and asked me to hand it to him.
As he dropped it in a large plastic bag containing cardboard trays, plastic wrappers, newspapers, wine bottles, soda cans and plastic bottles, I said, "So everything just gets tossed?" He hesitated a second and said, "Yeah, it does."
I realize Amtrak trains pass through many states with different recycling laws, but many people wish to recycle. I am certain reduction and recycling programs could be quickly and successfully implemented.
Train in Adirondacks too costly to keep up
Re Aug. 9 letter, "For history, scenery and access, keep railroad in Adirondacks": I have spent years fishing and hunting in the area between Lake Clear and Tupper Lake since 1962. The New York Central was still running trains in the 1960s, and they moved very slowly because the track was in poor condition.
Over the years, New York state was lobbied, and a million was spent here and a million there. It would be cost-prohibitive to keep this track operating: too many miles (90), ties continually have to be replaced, bridges need upgrading to carry heavy trains, etc.
Why must taxpayers keep paying for an obsolete train track which would cost $43 million to repair and continual upkeep for very little use or benefit to the taxpayer?
There are other uses for this right of way that would provide recreation and tourism at a much lower cost.
Arno F. Hiris
Kudos for special cows at new Ballston farm
I first saw those beautiful "Oreo" cows (Aug. 9 Gazette) when visiting my daughter in Texas.
I had never seen a Belted Galloway or anything like them around here. Then, lo and behold, they are in a pasture right near my hometown, and I pass by often! [I] can't wait to show them to my grandkids!
Thank you to the Saccos for revitalizing the Cappiello Farm as it was intended.
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