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Education advocates seek to de-emphasize standardized testing

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Students need fewer standardized tests and more time with teachers, according to the group Western New Yorkers for Public Education.Standardized tests are the subject of great debate across the country, but most students take them as an offshoot of No Child Left Behind, which requires report cards for schools. Teachers are usually evaluated on how students do on the tests. 

"The government and the officials are putting so much focus on data and test scores that they're really starting to miss the big picture," said Wendy Dellanave from the Lancaster district.

Members of the group say students spend too much time on tests and they aren't a good way to evaluate teachers. Pat Nemeth from the Cleveland Hill district says it's obvious there is a problem and he says he knows what he would tell State Education Commissioner John King.

"I'd tell him that the whole system is bunk, that they need to reevaluate the whole plan. My daughter scored four points below proficient on the math portion, but yet she's got a 96% average in math. There's something wrong there," Nemeth says.

Eric Mihelbergel says a small country with the best schools in the world shows how the tests aren't needed.

"We go back to the way things are run in Finland where they have no standardized testing until a student gets to 12th grade. Then they have one standardized test and they perform the best in the entire world on that test. And the reason is because they give autonomy to the teacher, they give autonomy to the school, the principal. They let the principal be the person who evaluates the teacher," Mihelbergel says.

The group's meeting in Kenmore Alliance Church drew a relatively small crowd, but participants were from school districts across the area, all opposed to standardized tests.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.