Joan Bonsignore: A teacher’s reflection

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Published: 2/7/2019 9:10:16 AM

Nearing the end of a teaching career including years in elementary, middle and high school classrooms, I now reflect that the joy of teaching still resounds strongly in my heart, but state mandates and focus upon standards-based testing brings disparagement to public education, leaving many in the field demoralized.

The “No Child Left Behind Act,” and its changes and new titles, has created a bureaucracy of organizations and businesses being paid to oversee, to analyze and to ultimately prove that public education has failed. Teachers are deemed incompetent unless proven otherwise through submission of evaluation forms into databases and through supporting test data. Millions of dollars siphoned from direct education services support this top-heavy system, feeding changing measurement standards, newly designed tests, and adjustment of success formulas, all to warrant continued supervision. This process continues to add to the misery of teachers and students.

The state determined that the original MCAS test no longer assessed skills for graduation; ironically, this proposal for change came when most districts were meeting the standards. Teachers protested the resulting PARCC test as an unfair assessment, so the state’s new design intended to combine MCAS and PARCC. The resulting test is largely a PARCC test. Additionally, the formula for measuring district success is now mainly focused on improvement in scores for the lowest tier of struggling students, essentially ignoring changes for 80 percent of the student body. My school is now below target, ranked as level one last year, because the 20 percent lowest group has not shown enough improvement.

Past formulas considered gains of all students from “needs improvement” to levels of proficient and advanced. Additionally, students with low cognitive ability, exempt from tests in the past, are required to be tested. Future results will now skew even more in the negative direction. When do parents, teachers, administrators and state leaders finally say “enough”?

Educators are dedicated to youth and aspire to inspire every child daily. It is time to let teachers do what they do best — teach — and to honor those dedicated to a most challenging profession.

Joan Bonsignore, high school English teacher 
Belchertown




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