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Monday, May 14, 2012

Different Tests

Our high school learners recently participated in an interesting experience that had nothing to do directly with preparing for the state tests, but everything to do with preparing for a potential test that really matters, particularly as we neared the annual Junior Prom. Let me explain.

At a time when state assessments approach and anxiety begins to build within public schools across New York, our high school learners were divided up into two different groups and sent on a field trip to Ed Frank's Choices 301 program in Altamont, New York. I've copied a message in italics from the program's website to explain their mission and purpose:

Program Goals
To raise awareness in both our youth and adults regarding the importance of safe driving-- use of seat and lap belts, observance of proper speed limits, and especially the need for abstinence of alcohol and other drugs when operating motor vehicles.

Choices 301 Inc.
The Choices 301, Inc. program focuses on the dangers of Driving While Intoxicated (DWl), Aggressive/Extreme Driving and the crashes, injuries and deaths which can and do result from one poor choice or bad decision.
The program takes a multi-faceted approach aimed at educating the public about the realities and dangers of DWl, aggressive and extreme driving behavior and the failure to utilize the proper passenger restraint devices in motor vehicles.

Although our learners are not asked on state tests to respond to questions about peer pressure, decision making within a social and emotional context, or the many sources of distraction impacting motor vehicle operators, they will likely find themselves confronted by such factors outside of school at critical junctures in their life. When that "test" of self-discipline, moral courage, and will power arrives, we want our learners to be aware of the possible consequences to their decisions. We consider this an appropriate investment in the future. It represents a significant test of their "mettle" may very well be more important than the state's test of their "medal" (as in, what level of achievement did each individual perform at on a 4 point rubric for the exam).

The combination of an increase in state-wide tests and the decrease in available funding for public schools has placed schools in the unenviable position of cutting staff and narrowing the curriculum. Many schools have felt the potent effect of dwindling financial resources and jettisoned teachers in electives, like Art, Music, Business and many other areas not covered by the reaches of a state imposed test of Math, English Language Arts, History or Science. The curriculum has narrowed and the assessments have widened. This direction holds the potential for negative and long term consequences regarding the prospect and promise of a broad base of knowledge, creativity, and higher order thinking skills, just to name a few.

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