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Head of private Manlius Pebble Hill School cheers the fight against high-stakes testing in public schools

To the Editor:

I am heartened by the recent crescendo of opposition mounted by area public school teachers and parents to high-stakes accountability testing — a process that has redefined the purpose and delivery of education in public schools across the country. These educators and parents understand that truly transformative learning experiences do not result from teaching to a test and I offer them my strong support in their effort to return classrooms to places where teachers can teach instead of cramming disconnected chunks of information into young heads for regurgitation on a standardized test.

As an independent school, Manlius Pebble Hill School is fortunate in not being subject to state mandates to administer high-stakes testing. Unlike some non-public schools in the Central New York region that have chosen to voluntarily administer standardized assessments, MPH stands firm against this misguided approach to education.

Students are cheated when they are treated as receptacles to be filled with test answers. They develop into contributing citizens and leaders when their school’s curriculum emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving skills; when they are encouraged to question; when they learn how to learn and are inspired by their teachers to embrace learning as a life-long pursuit.

Teaching to a standardized test does not accomplish these worthy and attainable outcomes and it baffles me that our public education system is willing – even eager – to yield that high ground to focus instead on standardized testing in the name of accountability.

Don’t get me wrong. I have taken my share of standardized tests that have served as gatekeepers to college, medical school, law school, and state licensure to practice law. In a host of test prep courses, I poured facts and figures aplenty – I call them dots – into my head to later dump them out onto an answer sheet. It struck me then, as it certainly does now, that true learning is not evidenced by the number of dots one can successfully collect; rather, it inheres in one’s ability to connect those dots to extract deeper meaning and understanding. This is the essence of academic inquiry and exploration.

To my public school colleagues who are pushing back against high-stakes testing and to parents who are fed up with test preparation masquerading as educational excellence, I sit in the bleachers beside your field of battle cheering for you.

D. Scott Wiggins
Head of School
Manlius Pebble Hill School