Assessments can help bridge gaps in education quality
This month, Betty Rosa led her first meeting as Board of Regents chancellor. As she begins her term, it is imperative that Rosa remembers the children who face more challenges than many students in New York City: the children from the Bronx, her home borough.
With high numbers of English language learners, the state’s largest percentage of students living in temporary housing and many children living in poverty, Bronx students are constantly fighting an uphill battle. I hope that Rosa will fight for an equitable education for these children, whom I have the honor of teaching.
Rosa has the opportunity to support all New York school districts, schools, teachers and students, including those from the Bronx, by publicly supporting and improving state assessments as we move beyond the opt out issue that has dominated too much of the debate this year. Quality assessments drive high standards, provide information for teachers and bring down achievement gaps. With more than 98 percent of New York City families opting in to the tests, it is clear parents and teachers alike understand their value and importance.
The chancellor recently said that if she had children and wasn’t on the Board of Regents, that she would opt her kids out of assessments. I agree that some improvements to the assessments are necessary – tests can be poorly written in some cases and the data may not be used as it was originally intended. But this presents a chance for Rosa to enact lasting change that will improve educational opportunities throughout the state. Instead of completely dismissing assessments and providing an opening to rid the system of this valuable tool, she can focus on making productive improvements to the program, as well as to curriculum and teacher evaluation.
Rosa has the ability to use assessments as they were originally intended when Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965, with the goal of ensuring equal access to education for all students. While some parents who choose to opt their children out of state tests may take their access to an excellent education for granted, this access is not a reality for all students, including many that Rosa represents. The data and results derived from assessments are a path to providing equal opportunity to a quality education for all.
I believe that by providing all students with an education they deserve, and annually measuring their growth and making instructional improvement, we can begin to bridge the inequality gaps in our education system. I hope that Rosa believes that, too.
Teresa Ranieri is a first grade teacher at P.S. 11, The Highbridge School. Teresa has been teaching in the Bronx for 20 years. She is a New York Educator Voice Fellow with America Achieves.