State’s educational failings are costly

This is a second open letter to the New York Four: the governor, Legislature, Board of Regents and education commissioner.

Open letter part one (Jan. 21) briefly discussed three major research studies which described more than a century of weak teaching candidates and inadequate teacher preparation. This is hugely problematic for education in New York and America.

“Look!” the child said, paraphrasing Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Four have no clothes on!” Ignorance as to what constitutes academic education; lack of knowledge about teaching and learning; ignoring education research and cognitive science that should act as guide in making decisions on educating New York’s children; wasting time and money on garbage curricula (e.g., social and emotional learning); the lens distortion that occurs with political correctness, diversity, multiculturalism, and cultural relativity; desecration of our precious Western values and history of liberty — all these are marks of a failed progressive philosophy. They leave The Four standing naked before those whom they are to serve.

In their arrogance and self-serving, The Four abandoned ethics and deluded themselves that they had the right to experiment upon New York’s children: Common Core, the grand — and expensive– experiment, but just one of many over the past century! Tom Loveless of Brookings Institute reported that Common Core “was much ado about nothing … a nonevent in terms of raising student achievement.” Will that alter The Four’s thinking? Can they set aside their egos to truly focus on student academic needs? Tragically, Common Core continues with all its glaring flaws, as do the previous blemished standards, now deceptively relabeled as “New York State Next Generation Learning Standards.”

New York children spend a lot of time taking tests. Do they provide information teachers can use with individual children? The answer is a very expensive no. Moreover, tests must be valid and reliable in order to be useful. After test validity — “Does the test measure what it is supposed to measure?” — reliability comes in a close second — “Can we place confidence in this test?” In fact, a test cannot be valid unless it is first reliable. Tests are standardized to ensure reliability. Yet, the commissioner announced in 2016 that the tests for grades three to eight no longer will be standardized, thus no longer reliable. Only scores from 2013-15 can be compared. Huge waste of taxpayer money!

The governor, too, has his fingers in the grades three to eight testing pie, except he wants to use the tests to evaluate teachers in an Annual Professional Performance Review. He was astounded at the very low percentage of teachers labeled “ineffective.” But why? The system deceptively dumbs down everything — admission requirements to teacher programs, certification tests, teacher training, student Common Core curricula, student testing-in order to protect itself and make results “appear” palatable to the taxpaying public.

Currently teaching programs in New York show a 40 percent decline in enrollment, and a 35 percent decline in graduate enrollment. Only in STEM subjects is there a need for teachers. To entice, Dee and Goldhaber (Brookings Institute) urge targeted financial incentives to those with STEM backgrounds. Other teaching areas see far more graduates produced than positions available.

If the governor truly wants more effective teachers, he should resurrect Levine’s (2005-2007) researched document, “The Education Schools Project,” and implement its recommendations: degree in an academic major (not Education); select from top 10 percent for fifth year study in pedagogy; raise qualifications for certification. To identify effective teachers via a flawed, non-standardized test focuses upon the end point when it’s too futile, too late. It’s time for boldness: Address the teacher shortage in STEM areas while seriously upgrading all teacher education.

The Board of Regents, policy making body for state education, is caught up in political correctness. It removed a literacy test for potential teachers because students of color had difficulty reading at an expected adult level. An already low cut score on the certification exam was set even lower. Is it any wonder our state has high failure rates on grades 3-8 tests? Students with weak reading, writing, math, and thinking skills enter teacher training programs. The training programs do nothing to overcome their low skills.

The legislature has legal responsibility over the Board of Regents, as well as voting on board candidates. Where is legislature oversight? Outrageously, many board candidates have limited or nonexistent qualifications for writing education policy. They are know-nothings with friends in high places. Legislature and governor pushed Common Core, but the 2016 Progress in International Literacy Study (PIRLS) for grade four children saw the U.S. drop from fifth to 13th place. These children had been in Common Core since kindergarten — a dismal failure. The U.S. was surpassed by nations such as Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, England, Hungary, Ireland, along with the usual Asian nations.

Who will pass on our country’s foundational and cultural legacies? Certainly not The Four. They seem unable — even unwilling — controlled as they are by progressive ideology, a shaky hold on principles, social engineering, trivia, and protecting their image. When political correctness dictates curriculum, as with Common Core, tragically, we see large numbers of youth and young adults gravitating toward socialism, even communism, without a clear idea of what this portends for themselves and our country. The Four took an oath of office.

Does it have any meaning for them-or is it just empty words? As a reminder: “I, (The Four), do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of New York” — faithfully and impartially.

Deann Nelson is a Jamestown resident.