David Gamberg recently retired as superintendent of schools in two adjoining towns on New York’s Long Island—Southold and Greenport—where he was beloved for his child-centered approach to schooling. In this article, he calls for new thinking and the courage to break free of the obsession with standardized testing and punitive accountability. He announced his retirement in January, not knowing what was about to happen to schools across the nation and the world.

He understands that the status quo of high-stakes testing and demoralizing punishment has failed.

He writes:

I argue that the emphasis must be on capturing the hearts and minds of our students, and not primarily seeking to make up for lost ground academically as noted by education author Alfie Kohn. We must abandon any pretense that the metrics used in recent years to judge, sort, and separate students, teachers and schools through a ranking system based on data that focused on math and ELA standardized testing will serve them well in the near future.

Therefore, the first step is an immediate cessation of the current accountability system, based primarily on the use of high stakes, standardized testing in grades 3-8 that has preoccupied students, teachers, administrators, Boards of Education, families, and school communities since the No Child Left Behind legislation of 2002.

Will our educational leaders have the courage and wisdom to change their focus to students, not their test scores? To humans, not rankings?