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Letter: The Core Curriculum And ‘Teaching to the Test’

When I was in high school in Levittown in the 1970s, I took all the “advanced” regents courses. Every question I had in class, every curiosity I needed to address, and every manifestation of my hunger for knowledge was met with a “don’t worry, that won’t be on the regents”. 

I didn’t study English, social studies, or chemistry; I studied to take the English regents, social studies regents, and chemistry regents. Whilst students in the “less advanced” programs were exploring academic subjects in whatever direction their imaginations led them, I was training to be a game show contestant filled with much data and little knowledge. 

It was my good fortune, however, to have sympathetic teachers who suggested a wide number of books and authors and after high school, whilst earning a degree in biology, I received my true education in libraries, museums, historic sites, wildlife sanctuaries, books, and in my research as a freelance writer.


I am, obviously, no fan of standardized testing. Nevertheless, I appreciate that there has to be, however imperfect, some objective standard to measure scholastic aptitude. We need, therefore, to better comprehend the motivations of the opt-out movement afoot; to distinguish between those who believe the Core Curriculum exams are yet more of the kind of teaching-to-the-test I experienced in high school and those who, for various reasons, have been oppose to virtually every endeavor to evaluate our educational system and attain professional accountability therewith.


A few years after I graduated high school, I read the U.S. Department of Education’s “A Nation at Risk” report whereupon it predicted that the next generation would be the first in American history to be less educated than the one that preceded it. That prediction was thirty years ago and it’s come to fruition. There are, however, some positive signs. 


Elementary school students receive a far more academically rigorous educational experience than what was available when I was in elementary school. The Core Curriculum is, for all its imperfections - and yes, I do have some critiques - probably the first honest attempt at reform to arrive in a generation.


Ultimately, it’s a parent’s responsibility to enforce the education of their children. If you are not making sure the homework is done, books are read, TV is educational programming, and family outings are to museums, libraries, historic sites, theaters, church, parks, and arts and craft fairs rather than to the mall, you are not doing your job. 

If your thoughts about upcoming summer are about “summer vacation” rather than how to reinforce what your child learned last grade and establishing a smooth transition into the new year come September, you have failed. That’s one test to which you need to be taught.


Paul Manton, Levittown