Jamaal A. Bowman is principal of a middle school in the Bronx in New York City. He knows the needs of his students, and he knows that none of their needs is addressed by annual testing. Thus he takes issue with Shavar Jeffries, the executive director of the pro-charter, pro-testing group called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Education Reform Now (ERN).


Bowman notes that Jeffries is sure about what to do to reform education but he never taught school.


“What is most damaging about our test and punish system and why Jefferies’ support is baffling, is our continued overemphasis on English Language Arts and Mathematics. As a result, Science, the arts, project based learning, and Montessori classrooms have all been reduced or removed from the public school curriculum. Consequently, aesthetic learning, and other essential skills needed to truly compete in a “21st century global economy” have been greatly compromised.


“Again, Mr. Jeffries has never taught a day in his life. If he had he might argue for the importance of early childhood programs in low-income communities. He would know that proficiency on standardized tests in grades 3-8 does not contribute to nor correlate with college success. He might also argue for portfolio-based assessments that facilitate deeper learning and better align with the collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills required for college and career success. In the future, I would encourage Mr. Jeffries to speak with real educators on the ground in district public schools. We work with children every day. We can tell him what needs to be done for our children and communities. Annual testing is not even on the list.


“We must have real conversations about the most important factor to learning in our schools —teachers and teaching. Let us design a school system anchored in multiple intelligences that nurture the innate brilliance and joy for learning in every child. Let us work together to advocate for a truly individualized, Whole Child approach to schooling. Our goal must be to ensure the health, prosperity, and happiness of every single child, so that we can fulfill the promise of our democracy. Mr. Jefferies and his colleagues at DFER, if they truly want what’s best for our public schools, must expand their thinking about life, learning, and most of all, children.”