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Our elementary education system is in crisis

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To The Editor:

Many people are concerned over the deterioration of the American educational system. This viewpoint was created by rating the American school system with other countries around the world. The United States has been close to the top of that list, but at this time it has dropped to 17th place. South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore are countries that now lead the world in education.

This comparison of 40 developed countries with the “best” educational systems is like comparing apples to oranges. Test results were the element used for comparison. How do you compare the test results of 40 countries when they do not have the same educational system?

The United States offers 13 years of free education (kindergarten through 12th grade) to every American, no matter what the economic or social status, gender, cultural background, religion, physical or learning disabilities, or eye queue. We live in a country that gives the opportunity to everyone to become the best they can be through education. Each citizen then makes the decision on how they will use this American educational system, whether it is to seek a profession through college, work in a trade, or collect their monthly check from Social Services. Everyone’s test results count, not just the “cream of the crop.”

The New York State Education Department has been very busy over the past 10 years making changes to improve the results of state testing in third- through eighth-grade English language arts tests and math tests, and high school Regents tests. The state Department of Education has changed the state standards and adopted the “Common Core.” They have decided what, when and how New York State’s teachers will teach throughout the year. For the math curriculum, first- through sixth-grade teachers will not review what the students have been taught in prior years. The state has decided the children have been taught the required information at each grade level. Therefore, they have learned it. The teachers are not expected to review the material, even if their students are in need of review. New York State children are being set up for failure.

In third grade, teachers have always reviewed addition, subtraction, and place value with their 8-year-old students before starting with multiplication in December. Now, third-grade teachers are beginning with multiplication and division first. If a student’s addition and subtraction knowledge is weak, then multiplication and division is a nightmare. I thought we were not going to “leave any child behind!”

Elementary teachers know that repetition is one of the strongest tools used to assure that learning is happening. Instructional repetition is used to create mastery in a child’s young mind. Teachers also realize they have a responsibility to build a strong foundation of knowledge during the universal pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade years of a student’s education. But an educational system has been created which forces elementary teachers to present and expect their students to learn information even though their students are not developmentally ready to understand it. New York State teachers know what, when and how to teach, but nobody is listening to them!

What has happened to differentiated learning? Because of varied maturity levels, learning disabilities and other deterrents, not all elementary students learn at the same rate. Teachers are expected to place their students on the common core and learning module assembly line, and crank the students through this learning experience just like little robots.

Who are the people responsible for creating this “better” educational system? The final approval on these changes was the state Board of Regents. This group of influential people is comprised of 17 individuals. According to their biographies on their website, approximately two of them have had elementary teaching experience. Six of them have had no experience in teaching in an educational system at all. Nine of them have teaching experience at the high school or college level. Building a strong knowledge base for the elementary level is essential to being successful in a person’s life. Looking at the composition of our Board of Regents, it is my opinion that we need more current elementary experience represented in this group of educational decision makers.

Education is the backbone of our state and our country. Our children’s future is at risk. Let’s put education back in the hands of people who live it, love it, and have experienced it — our teachers! It is time for every one of our elected officials to get back into the elementary classrooms within the areas they represent and spend time talking to the teachers, the administration, the parents, and the students. You need to find out what is truly going on in schools!

Susan Marquart

Canton

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