Our children’s education can’t be all about numbers


Imagine students who can not only grasp the concepts of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, courses through the diligent application of the scientific method, but also generate original and thought-provoking work in the humanities. Picture them creating intricate pieces in fine, performing and culinary arts, and graduating with a thorough comprehension of holistic health and physical well-being. Isn’t this the kind of holistic education that benefits society?
But such growth and learning cannot be conveniently distilled into numerical values. It’s a fallacy to assume that numbers hold the ultimate truth about the depth of our students’ learning.
The New York State Education Department has created a blue-ribbon committee to present potential changes to graduation measures. One desired change is to shift toward more holistic assessments that evaluate a broader range of skills and knowledge alongside the traditional Regents exams, incorporating project-based assessments, portfolios, presentations and other methods.
Additionally, there is a need for more flexible pathways to graduation, acknowledging students’ diverse strengths, interests and career goals. New pathways could involve offering various courses, internships and experiences on college campuses, allowing students to specialize in their areas of passion.
A focus on real-world relevance is also important, emphasizing practical skills, critical thinking, problem solving and the application of knowledge to prepare students for future challenges. The aim is to create a learning environment that nurtures mastery, creativity and individual identity, in which students can pursue their unique interests and meet their specific needs. By fostering each student’s unique identity, we can ensure equal opportunities for success and access to necessary resources and support, irrespective of their background or circumstances. It would require flexible scheduling, differentiated instruction, and opportunities for students to pursue their interests.

There is a prevailing concern that the Education Department might contemplate reducing standards and expectations. I am hopeful that it will do no such thing, and I strongly oppose any such direction of thought. All students, without exception, should be given the chance to display their mastery in all areas of learning. This encompasses a comprehensive understanding of subjects ranging from STEM to humanities, encompassing fine, performing and culinary arts as well as physical education and health.
Across the nation, societal divisions have deepened, yet our common ground outweighs our differences. Unfortunately, the decline of tight-knit neighborhoods, the excessive reliance on social media, and the neglect of reading have hindered genuine and civil interactions among us. Instead of engaging meaningfully with our neighbors, we often resort to shouting into the echo chambers of social platforms. Both classic and contemporary literary works are rejected as unworthy of our attention, further fragmenting our intellectual pursuits.
As educators, we possess the extraordinary power to give students the platform to realize their potential. I promote the idea of the hashtag “Read Write Think Critically Daily.” Rather than instructing students what to think, our role should focus more on guiding them in the art of critical thinking. I sincerely hope that any forthcoming changes in graduation requirements will be designed to unlock the full potential of every student.

Daniel Rehman is the superintendent of the West Hempstead school district.