Government should listen to teachers

Published 9:00 pm Saturday, August 15, 2009

Not only am I the proud product of a public education, but the proud son of two public high school teachers.

Through most of my years in school, I remember riding to school with my parents and listening to their discussions of literature, the proper diagram of a sentence and the trials and tribulations of their careers.

For 30-plus years, both my mother and father headed to school each fall and, in most cases, also signed up to teach summer school, helping students get the credits they needed to graduate and head off into their careers or college.

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But as my parents approached retirement, which was many years after I graduated, I remember hearing them talk of how teaching had changed. They talked about how it was no longer about the curriculum, but the test scores. It was no longer about the process, but the paperwork.

Last week, the annual Adequate Yearly Progress reports were released on area schools. The results were not exactly what local education leaders had hoped, with a number of schools falling short of the benchmarks established in the No Child Left Behind legislation.

Education leaders in Suffolk made comments about the standards this legislation requires and how the increasing demands will make it harder for schools to achieve the AYP scores they need to avert further government involvement.

My parents, even into retirement, have talked about the amount of testing students and teachers must deal with each month, each quarter, each year.

I am not sure when the biggest goal for educators went from providing the best possible education to their students, to ensuring they taught the material of the next state or federal test.

The biggest benchmark for our schools should not be numbers on a sheet, or a predetermined statistic, but whether the students who graduate from our schools are prepared to make contributions to society and take with them the skills to have a successful career, whatever that might be.

Today my little sister is in the classroom as a math teacher (not sure how that happened) and to hear her talk is to hear the words of our parents as their teaching careers ended.

As we seek to find solutions to improving education, government would be wise to listen to our teachers. In the end, it’s the career they have chosen and the calling they have answered.