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Friday, July 25, 2014
Johnson is wrong, not the tests

To the Editor:

We find Superintendent William Johnson’s attitude toward Rockville Centre’s low state test results surprisingly arrogant and cavalier (“School test scores drop sharply,” Aug. 15-21).

Of course, the results were widely expected to be low, as this was the first year the tests were administered. State Education Commissioner John King Jr. has advised administrators not to use the results to make decisions concerning student services or teacher evaluations — this year. However, a “nothing to see here” approach, as Dr. Johnson is embracing, is not going to improve the situation or the students’ results next year.

The debate over these standardized tests will continue through our state’s democratic process, and should not be unilaterally shut down by a now questionably effective superintendent who thinks he’s above the process.

The reality of the tests is acknowledged by administrators in surrounding areas, like Dr. Phyllis Harrington of Oceanside, who views them as an opportunity to demonstrate future improvement, and Dr. Teresa Prendergast of Garden City, who accepts that the state’s intent is to better prepare our kids for secondary education.  Instead, Dr. Johnson rails that the scores “do not matter ... they’re not giving us any new information. In fact, what they’re doing is serious damage.” He then suggests that the parents who opted out “can easily turn to their neighbors and say, “I told you so.”

What’s more damaging to our community? Standardized tests, which are not going anywhere, or an insular and defensive superintendent who refuses to believe that the taxpayers are sophisticated enough to understand their purpose? The tests are useful as a tool in determining how effectively our school taxes are put to use to educate our children compared to neighboring towns. As far as many residents are concerned, the only real damage the tests are doing is to Dr. Johnson’s reputation.

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