Even though Singapore has been praised by many for its education system, my Singaporean friends often tell me not to relocate from New York back to Singapore, precisely because of its education system.
They tell me that it is way too stressful and competitive, and a friend even told me she realized one day that she wasn’t doing normal parent-child things with her kid any more – like hanging out in the park, or just having fun. My friends in Singapore tell me, “at least over in New York, your daughter will get to have a childhood.”
However, in recent years, the pressures of testing have been felt more and more intensely by students, teachers, principals and parents in the U.S., starting with the No Child Left Behind Act under President Bush, and now, Race to the Top under President Obama. Under both administrations, the evaluation of teaching performance has come to depend increasingly on student test scores.
One of the worst things to have happen to public education is the public ranking of teachers based on test scores. In August 2010, the Los Angeles Times published an article, “Grading the teachers: Who’s teaching L.A.’s kids“, which publicly ranked teachers’ effectiveness based on the students’ test scores. And in New York City, teachers might soon face the same fate as the courts have ruled that the city will have to release the rankings to the press.
This public use of carrots and sticks goes against what we know about motivating human beings to do their best in creative work, which is what teaching is.
I can’t say for sure any more that my daughter will have more of a childhood living in New York anymore.
But, educators are not keeping quiet. Today’s New York Times reported on Principals in New York State, and in particular on Long Island, signing an open letter to protest the state’s new teacher and principal evaluation system, which is based, to a large extent, on student test scores.
I think this is just the beginning. There will be more as thoughtful educators concerned about meaningful and equitable education garner their considerable voice and strength for authentic education reform.
Dr. Yen Yen Woo is Associate Professor of Education at Long Island University, C.W.Post and the creator of the Dim Sum Warriors comics app, available through the App Store in January 2012. Read a comic, learn a language! www.dimsumwarriors.com. Read Dr. Woo’s research and analysis about “Youth Temporalities and the Cost of Singapore’s Educational Success” in the journal, Discourse: Studies in The Cultural Politics of Education.