The following is from School Committee challenger Kamara Kay. All present Council, School Committee members and ALL challengers are invited to send me articles, white papers etc. that you would like to share with the voters of Lowell up until October 31st 2015.
Over Standardizing Curriculum
I was appalled to read one of the articles on U.S. News as to whether high schools should limit AP course enrollment. The article cited school’s concern that students may be overextending themselves and placing too much focus on the rigorous coursework and not enough on extracurricular activities and other hobbies. Indeed, I am as much confused as educators and parents alike. We’re living in an accountability society that measures success on certifications and standards. Yet, the vilification on the rigorous demand on student coursework that could deviate from their external activities and other civic engagements is beyond comprehension.
We require that all public school educators to adhere to the state teaching certification and standards. The State must test and certify educators before they can teach in our secondary schools. And yet, we cry for the shortage of educators across the country because many of these professional experience workers don’t want to submit through what they believe is a façade of standards. Secondary school administrators and school board or committee members, alike, change the direction as the wind blow because of political pressure to ensure that our students perform to the “world standards” and to measure classroom success based on a one size fits all. Yet, the main justification is how we measure classroom success and learning retention. While others, success must be measured among peers by implementing testing standards such as PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readings for College and Careers) and MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System).
While PARCC and MCAS deviate from the underlying nature of these standardize tests. The federal Department of Education is forcing states and local jurisdictions to adhere to them that could not be measured because of regional students’ cognitive development and attention learning issues that includes other environmental factors while tying them to federal grants. PARCC creates an allusion that it prepares students for success after high school in college and/or careers. However, little has been emphasized in PARCC for STEM and vocational curriculum for students’ sustainment of their career after high school. PARCC is to set specific consistent expectations in English and mathematics for all students and provides a reliable evaluation of each student’s progress toward them. At the same time, MCAS is measuring teaching in classroom success rate. This is a sublime distrust rather than archaic policy for our educators. While no college and university would accept PARCC as a requisite of admission to their programs. After all, most colleges and universities require SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) as a requisite for admission.
Lest, we forget that the U.S. educational system has always been the model for the world. It is the cradle to graduation system that develops and prepares every generation to compete in a new global economy. Now, we’re teaching our students to be test takers not critical thinkers. As a community, we shall not limit our students to be second tier learners for the rigorous of coursework. We must trust our educators to passionately teach from the value of their life experience and challenge the coursework of what is transferrable to workplace. While, U.S. colleges and universities develop their academic programs based on their excellence in teaching from theoretical to applicable experience. Federal DOE demands standardize tests that hold little value to critical thinking and vocational knowledge. As students and parents, we gravitate to those standards of excellence. As secondary school educators, we must strive for the quality in transformative teaching that incorporates experiential learning to better prepare our students to compete globally.
Kamara Kay is a candidate for Lowell School Committee, a PhD candidate in Information Security, and a former college Program Chair for School of Information Technology and Electronics.