In a very short time the South Country school district, Suffolk County, went from a “sit and stare”* policy (forcing students to sit and do nothing during the testing time), to one that has completely shifted focus away from testing altogether. They are even revamping their curriculum to be more creative based and teacher led. Here is how a resident paraphrased the assistant super. for curriculum and instruction:
“The units for reading and writing were replaced. Teachers were given complete autonomy. Reading was replaced with a study of genres absent of thoughtless test prep questions and built around questions that would encourage deeper level thinking & conversations. Writing was replaced with blog responses to literature. Again, absent of the typical canned test prep and replaced by 21st century technology partnered with higher order questions.
Instead of spoonfuls of thoughtless test prep, the students will be treated to a full course meal of quality education. Test scores will not rise, but a love and foundation of learning has been secured.”
The policy changes were made in the 3rd grades of all district schools (3). The after-school test prep classes were canceled. The administration, teachers, and parents agreed to play down the role of tests in 3rd grades only, as they do not want to alienate parents in higher grades who have already bought into the No Child Left Behind and Race to The Top scoring philosophy. Changing this philosophy will require a generation of new parents coming to the system and educators committed to prepare students for life.
* The few remaining “sit and stare” policy districts are: East Meadow, Elwood, Hicksville, Kings Park, Locust Valley, Lynbrook, Northport, Port Washington, Valley Stream 13, Westhampton Beach.
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