Dear Mr President,
Revising the requirements laid in in No Child Left Behind, is an essential step to making students college and career ready. I think our system places too great an emphasis on standardized testing, but I recognize that, absent hard data, it is difficult to point to successes and areas needing improvement in our schools. As a student, I took the WASL, the ITED, the levels tests, the Hi-cap test, the PSAT, the SAT, 3 AP tests and the ACT. I don't mean to brag or anything, but I rock at standardized tests. Unfortunately, this skill isn't exactly something I can put on my resume. I also had amazing teachers; one took students interested in education and had us intern for a week in the classroom. Another created a scavenger hunt that took us all over town using GPS and practical cryptography. One had us pick books without cliff notes available and write our own. These were all experiences that helped me develop important skills, and used practical experience to give us a better understanding of the concepts we were required to learn. None of them appeared on a standardized tests.
I suppose my point is that we can require testing in reading and math skills every year, but my guess is we're going to do more to improve our test-taking skills than anything else. And, don't get me wrong, having test-taking skills is not a bad lot in life. But I think, rather than being tested every year, my educational experience would have been most improved by a longer school year, teacher who were more adequately compensated (and, in some cases, better prepared to teach their subjects,) and a community that recognized the value of higher education. I don't think that all of those are things the Federal government can necessarily provide, but certainly steps should be taken in this direction. The preliminary suggestions from your administration for improving education look promising, and I hope that they are better received by the public than health care reform has been.