Oh where to begin? Now my fight to restore social studies in New York encountered its own Judge Smails.
In the continuing saga about the lack of state testing in grades 5 and 8 in social studies, the New York State Board of Regents managed to whangle Race to the Top money out of Arne Duncan. Way to fleece the blind and dumb there, guys!
Now that we had our blood money, I thought we could then proceed to re-establishing the tests that had been abandoned this year for budgetary reasons. It only made sense, since it was sheer dollars that suspended the tests in the first place. So I drafted the following to the Regents:
Honorable members of the Board of Regents:
First I would like to congratulate you on winning the Race to the Top Phase II funds for New York State. Even though you had to lie about our assessment data (see page 106 of your application), it was a job well done.
Now that we have Secretary Duncan’s blood money, I hope that one thing can be addressed: When will Social Studies testing in grades 5 and 8 return?
I have repeated sent messages to this regard with no response. Therefore I will be sending you this letter every day until I get a response.
I think the social studies teachers of this state deserve an answer.
This morning, I receive a response from Regent Harry Phillips, III. Regent Phillips is a resident of the rich suburb of Hartsdale, a Harvard graduate and a successful businessman–everything you’d expect from the rich elite that predominate the board. His response was the following:
I expect that teachers will give formative tests in all grades for Social Studies.
Regent, Judicial District IX
Really, Harry? You EXPECT teachers to give formative tests? You think this is Groton, where the old classics are beaten into kids heads because it’s good for them?
This is a response from someone with no experience in a classroom. I’ve said this repeatedly: if there are no stakes in the game, the game isn’t worth being played. Teachers will not give social studies the attention it deserves without some form of assessment. It isn’t out of laziness, but rather time management: with other high-stakes tests to prepare for, social studies takes up too much time if it doesn’t “matter” in the NCLB universe.
So sorry, Harry, but this is a cop-out of an answer. You can expect all you want, but a mandate would be more forceful, more effective, and more like how a Regent of this great state should act.
If you agree with my assessment of Regent Phillips’ response, send him an e-mail. Be sure to say I sent you…he likes that.
So, Harry, how about a Fresca?