I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, April 15, 2013

NY Chancellor Merryl Tisch: Another Reformy Hypocrite

The children of New York are under incredible, age-inappropriate stress this week due to standardized tests that are based, for the first time, on the untested Common Core Standards:
At Public School 10 on the edge of Park Slope, Brooklyn, parents begged the principal to postpone the lower school science fair, insisting it was going to add too much pressure while they were preparing their children for the coming state tests. 
On Staten Island, a community meeting devolved into a series of student stress stories, with one parent recounting how his son had woken up from a bad dream, mumbling that he had forgotten to fill in a bubble answer. 
And at Public School 24 in the Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx, a fifth-grade teacher, Walter Rendon, has found himself soothing tense 10- and 11-year-olds as they pore over test prep exercises. “Sometimes, I say: ‘Just breathe.’ ”
Way to suck the life out of childhood and instill an innate love of learning, Board of Regents! I'm sure the kids will be thanking you for years to come...

But don't despair, NY: your children can take solace in the fact that their betters understand what they are going through:
Officials defend the decision to switch tests now, saying that previous exams have gone from easy to easier, providing a poor indication of student competency. Saying that most New York high school graduates are not ready for college-level work, Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the state Board of Regents, said the state could not wait any longer to see where its students were succeeding and where they needed help.
Believe me, I relate to test anxiety,” she said during a visit last week to the Academy of Arts and Letters in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, one of several schools that city and state education officials visited to express support for the new tests. “We can’t wait,” she said. “We have to just jump into the deep end.” [emphasis mine]
And hey, if a few kids wind up at the bottom of the pool... well, it's obviously worth it! We can't let Shanghai beat us, can we?

Because it's not like wealthy, reformy folks like Merryl Tisch don't understand the 10-year-olds freaking out over filling in the right bubble. Tisch herself says she went through this when she was a kid! She can "relate" to your child's literal nightmares!

Can't she?
Those who call themselves reformers are a diverse group, men and women of every political stripe and of every race and ethnicity. 
But there is one thing that characterizes a surprisingly large number of the people who are transforming public schools: they attended private schools.
Merryl H. Tisch (Ramaz School, Manhattan), chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, along with David M. Steiner (Perse School, Cambridge, England), the New York state education commissioner, have fine-tuned the state’s extensive testing system pioneered by the former state commissioner, Richard Mills. [emphasis mine]
"Ramaz School"? What's that, some test-based factory where the kids all have to work on the same material at the same time to pass the same test in math and reading and no other parts of the curriculum?
Throughout the lower school experience, we offer children opportunities to use their minds, to discover the world around them, to become creative thinkers and to develop their critical thinking skills. As the students develop their academic skills, we help them begin to master the foundation of the Jewish studies curriculum with a major emphasis on the Hebrew language. At the same time, our students begin exploring the various disciplines that constitute the foundation of the general studies curriculum. We prepare them academically to meet the challenges of their continuing education.

As we encourage our students to become independent learners, we hope to instill within each of them a joy for learning, building an enthusiasm for the pursuit of all knowledge, a love for the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvot. Recognizing that each child is unique, we provide the individual attention that leads to success and that builds self esteem. We encourage children to grow to their potential, intellectually, emotionally and physically in a warm, secure and exciting environment. [emphasis mine]
OK, look, maybe I've got it wrong here. I mean Ramaz must emphasize testing at some level, right?

Testing should not be confused with educating. We in the Ramaz College Office believe that the primary duty of a student is to educate him/herself. The high school years should be a time to acquire both skills and knowledge that will serve a student well during college, graduate school, and life. Studying for the SAT or the ACT, with or without the help of a tutor or course, should never take precedence over studying for the high school courses that will form the core of a solid, liberal education.

There is no question that high standardized test scores (with the SAT I or ACT more closely considered than SAT II subject tests) are a factor in admission to competitive colleges today. However, they are never considered as strongly as grades earned in a challenging program over the course of an entire high school career. Fortunately or unfortunately, high standardized test scores will not compensate for poor grades or a flat program in college admissions. In fact, particularly high scores in conjunction with low grades are a red flag for colleges. Admissions committees would much prefer to see a consistent and hard working profile than very high potential (as indicated by high scores) that has not yet been fulfilled. 

Now, you might think that Chancellor Tisch is a massive, screaming, unbelievable hypocrite for attending a private school that emphasizes the joy of learning and deemphasizes the importance of testing - all while pretending she can empathize with the children and families who suffer under her test-crazed cruelty.

But it's actually worse than that: Tisch's own children didn't take state tests either! But that didn't stop her from pretending that their experience of prepping for the SAT while in high school was analogous to the drill-and-kill pervading in the lower grades of New York's public schools:
Meryl Tisch, a state Regent, said she supported both tests and test preparation. Her own children went to private schools and did not take the state tests, she said. But they did take courses to prepare for a standardized test, the SAT's, and found that they actually learned valuable vocabulary, math and writing skills.
Oh, I'm sure the private, age-appropriate SAT prep courses they took were an invaluable addition to their regular schoolwork. But it takes an enormous amount of chutzpah to pretend that is at all like the six-day marathon Tisch is preparing to foist on New York's 11-year-olds through this week.

Still not enough hypocrisy for you? Consider this: these test scores will affect the evaluations of teachers across the state. The system used is riddled with errors and bias, which means career educators will pay a price under the system Tisch supports. Yet her years as a teacher were spent at private schools!
From 1977 to 1984 Chancellor Tisch taught first-graders at New York City’s Ramaz School and the B’nai Jeshurun School.
Lovely. I wonder: would the fabulously wealthy Dr. Tisch have remained in her job if she had to endure the test-based junk science of VAM while teaching?

And so another plutocrat provides one type of education for her own children while everyone else's kids literally suffer under a bizarre, punitive, and secretive testing regime. Like NY Education Commissioner John King and Michelle Rhee and Chris Christie and Bill Gates and Davis Guggenheim and Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama and so many others, Merryl Tisch gave her children the education leaders get.

Your kids? Eh, not so much...

I wonder if that 10-year-old will float...


Unknown said...

Michelle Rhee & ex-husband, TN commissioner of education, Kevin Huffman's daughter attends Harpeth Hall in Nashville, TN.

The experiences on the website of one Harpeth Hall Alum. reveals the exciting, nurturing, & creative education she received for a cool $22,000+/year tuition.

"Harpeth Hall gave me confidence. I am sure it was the all-girl setting, the small classes, the exposure to literature, art, higher level math and science, and athletics, from field hockey to basketball, volleyball, and cheerleading. Believe it or not, I was a club cheerleader!".

Tamar Wyschogrod said...

As it happens, I am a Ramaz alumna. In fact, Merryl Tisch graduated Ramaz in my brother's class. I don't know about Ramaz today, but back then, standardized test were a total non-event. We didn't even know about them ahead of time, let alone prepare for or worry about them. Any test anxiety we had (and plenty of us did have it - in high school, as college loomed) was certainly not associated with high-stakes standardized tests, but rather with midterms and finals. So...ummm...yeah. Merryl? Get a grip.

swr said...

Is it true that there is only one Regent who sends or sent his kid to a public school?

EC said...

You're exactly right, Duke--only, are you implying that Tisch's kids took a "course" to prepare for the SATs? Like, a course with a teacher and other students? If so, you are admirably naive. Someone as rich as Tisch would never have anything less than a one-on-one private tutor. My wife and I worked for a while as high-priced SAT tutors in Manhattan several years ago, and my wife tutored a rich Tisch kid--possibly one of Merryl's? As a former tutor, I guess I'm glad Merryl remembers SAT tutoring as being so educational, but private one-on-one tutoring is very far from what she's imposing on public school kids.

Unknown said...

Because it's not like wealthy, reformy folks like Merryl Tisch don't understand the 10-year-olds freaking out over filling ... wohnzimmertischglas.blogspot.de