Testing procedures may explain scores

I’m a 1963 graduate of Gloversville High School. I remember attending GHS with many intelligent “kids” – today’s doctors, lawyers, business people and professionals – men and women alike. It’s difficult for me to believe those classes from yesteryear suffered any significant deficiencies in English or mathematics. So what has happened to our local schools and the quality of education that they offer now? It seems reasonable to believe that our children start as “blank slates” and that they aspire to learn what we teach them. However, you would think there would be some early signs that “the system” is meeting its educational objectives, perhaps through the Common Core testing.

To read that our Gloversville and Johnstown eighth-graders scored only 5 percent – the percentage who met or exceeded the New York state proficiency standard on the math tests in 2013-14 – quickly brought me back to my days as an educator. Decades ago, I was a college instructor in Boston. It didn’t take me long to realize that many of my students, alleged high school graduates one and all, were only marginally capable of reading, much less writing and spelling, and as far as math was concerned, they were only able to multiply by 10 on their good days. At the time, I attributed those sad shortcomings to the fact many of those students came from overcrowded intercity school systems where school funding was inadequate.

So what’s wrong with our local educational systems today? Surely, we spend enough money on education to deserve a more favorable scorecard of the system’s successes and failures. Is it the strong teachers union tenure system that protects mediocre educators? Does our system mollycoddle today’s students to the point where fear of discipline in school makes it nearly impossible for the students to be “forced” to learn something? Have today’s parents tuned out and left everything to the teachers to raise and educate their kids? Clearly, the community is not receiving good value for the cost of today’s education dollar spent. Otherwise, why are so many of our students such expensive “blank slates?”

Personally, math as I learned it before every student had an electronic calculator, taught me problem-solving and quantitative reasoning, much of which I rely on every day. Perhaps it’s today’s testing procedures that need to be questioned rather than the educational system itself.