I recently received this email from Tim Farley, an elementary school principal in Néw York:
Here is the link to a blog written in the fall of 2013 by the Head of Schools for Woodland Hill, Susan Kambrich. In this letter turned blog, she writes to her parents of her experience at the annual NYSAIS (New York State Association of Independent Schools) Heads of Schools conference.
Woodland Hill may sound familiar to you and your readers because this is the school that the soon-to-be-former New York State Education Commissioner John King sends his children to. If he were to send his children to public school, his children would attend the Bethlehem Central School District – a highly respected public school in the suburbs of Albany.
In her blog, Susan writes about the featured presenter, Yong Zhao, a highly respected author and professor at the University of Oregon. His message focused on the importance of having an education system that promotes creative and strategic thinking. He posits that the United States has typically produced students who are by-and-large not good test takers, as opposed to students in China. Zhao, according to Susan, also spoke on the importance for the United States to help its students to “develop entrepreneurial qualities such as risk-taking, empathy, confidence, alertness to opportunity…”
Susan continues by writing, “Zhao says that investing in testing will only create good test takers, and test scores are not valid predictors of success. If we invest our resources in tests, we will get good test-takers; if we spend our time celebrating and encouraging our variety of abilities, creativity, and diverse thinking we will better help our students succeed. Testing should be a tool, not the focus.” She concludes with, “Interestingly, he also mentioned that his children went to a Montessori school.”
The reason I bring this blog to your readers’ attention is to highlight the hypocrisy of John King’s personal decisions compared to the decisions he made that affect well over a million students throughout New York state. It appears after reading about Woodland Hill’s philosophy on their web page (www.woodlandhill.org), that they have embraced much of what Zhao says is good for students. Teachers at Woodland Hill have the autonomy to create an individualized education for their students. Furthermore, there is no test-based accountability system at Woodland Hill.
This sounds like an absolutely wonderful school and I have already contacted the school to schedule a tour. I do not begrudge John King for deciding to send his children to Woodland Hill. In fact, I believe all parents should be making these decisions for their children. However, as Commissioner, John King prescribed a very different educational experience for the children whose parents do not have the same opportunities that he has. Many parents can ill-afford the tuition at a school such as Woodland Hill.
Commissioner King has foisting a punitive, highly competitive, rank and sort, test-based accountability school system on all of our children. Mr. King knows all too well the benefits of sending his children to a school like Woodland Hill, but he refuses to allow public school children the same opportunities. This is the epitome of hypocrisy – Common Core, high stakes testing, and data-mining for the masses; an individualized collaborative and creative learning experience for his children.
If Mr. King knows what is best for his kids, shouldn’t he be trying his best as Commissioner to give all New York students the same thing?