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Testing Children Rather Than Teaching Them

August 12, 2003

Re "Schools Find No Help in Carrots and Sticks," Commentary, Aug. 8: Thank you for helping to shed some light on the pitfalls of the "leave no child behind" policies. As a second-grade teacher enmeshed in the school policies and attempting to teach children, I struggle to aid all children in meeting the standards, knowing full well that vast numbers of children with a variety of learning styles are, in fact, being left behind.

Children are being sacrificed in the name of "improved" education. As teachers and parents, we are cognizant of the fact that what is being passed on to us is politically and monetarily motivated and simply not motivated by the needs of children. We must begin to mobilize and contact our state politicians by mail, e-mail and phone calls. People like the chair of the Assembly Education Committee, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), and Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, need to hear and understand the personal effects that these policies are having on our children.

Shelley Gelber

Studio City

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After seven years of teaching English and journalism at Rosemead High School, my alma mater, I see education suffering from an all-consuming culture of test-taking. In these past several years I have administered and/or prepared my students for such tests as TAP, STAR, SAT I & II, ACT, CAHSEE, GSE and AP, many of which have been discarded or revamped due to the swinging pendulum of fickle education theory. Because administration is under immense pressure to show constant improvements in test scores, teachers and students alike find themselves in an unhealthy and pressure-filled competition that loses its focus on learning. As state content standards have become the priority, I find myself with far less time to teach the ideas in the literature and push the kids to think critically.

Either the student becomes a test-taking savant or he or she is forced to the periphery and reclassified, or worse. I became a teacher in order to be a positive force in the lives and development of the children who sit in the very same classrooms I did just a decade or so ago. What I am becoming instead is a Pavlovian automaton ringing bells to see how well the salivating students perform on Scantron tests.

Eric Burgess

Rosemead

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