Despite a swirl of anger and anger and frustration generated by the economic downturn and a nasty presidential contest, Bennington area residents might find some good, cheering news in a few likely -- or unlikely places.
For instance: A teachers' strike in October 2011 in the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union skewed results of student testing on the New England Common Assessment Program tests. Because of the strike, only a third of the SVSU schools completed the testing.
That might not sound like a positive, but consider that more than 70 percent of Vermont schools failed to meet goals of the federal No Child Left Behind program, roughly the same as the year before. In other words, is this process meaningful anymore?
The test results for students in other states appear to be just as dismal -- assuming such standard testing has any validity at all. So the teachers' strike merely allowed most SVSU students to avoid what might, at this point, be termed a useless exercise.
Not that testing of every student's knowledge is a waste of time, but that standardized testing, no matter the format, seems always to result in as much failure as a lack of standardized testing, if not more.
Isn't it time for new approaches? Many teachers are said to hate the constant need to "teach to the test," while many avid supporters seem intent on forcing public schools through a vain attempt to "prove" they are effectively teaching students.
In addition, no one ever seems to pay a price for not meeting testing goals, so, we might ask, what's the point? This is taking away from classroom time that might -- or might not, depending upon the teachers -- be better spent.
In the end, student motivation is always the key, whether it is high, medium, low or nonexistent. That determines the quality of a person's education in almost every instance.
And self-education outside the classroom has to continue after school hours or there is no education in a practical sense.
Having a strike every fall to avoid these tests might be a drastic step not worth taking and is not recommended, but a drastic overhaul of the entire process seems an urgent need.