Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Letter to Fordham Admissions Director Urging that Students Who Opt Out of Tests Be Given Serioius Consideration

March 1, 2016

Dr. Patricia Peek
Director of Admissions
Fordham University

Dear Dr Peek
As a faculty member at Fordham for 45 years, and as a scholar following trends in education policy, I want to call your attention to the possibility that young people who are refusing standardized tests as a matter of principle may eventually be a significant group among future applicants to Fordham University.
Last year, in New York State alone, more than 220,000 students refused to take Common Core aligned tests and the movement this is part of –Opt Out- is growing in every part of the country. Participants in this movement believe that standardization and excessive testing are undermining critical thinking, an appreciation of literature and the arts, and student and teacher autonomy in favor of a one size fits all model of pedagogy that aligns learning to standards imposed from above. As a faculty member who teaches History courses, I see some of the damage imposed by this model in the form of student confusion when I ask for critical commentary on course tests and assign independent research projects instead of short answer tests. And I am not alone in this perception. Many of my colleagues also complain of students who resist being asked to read entire books or do independent research projects. In short, the kind of testing and pedagogy that is prompting test resistance at the K-12 level is also creating problems for students at the college level, at least in Humanities courses.
My main point is this. I strongly urge Fordham to allow applicants to the school to refuse to take the SAT- which is now Common Core aligned- and submit applications where they are judged solely on grades, recommendations, persuasive essays and submission of independent work. Many such students will be highly gifted, principled young people, who have taken a moral position on one of the great issues of the day. Fordham will not only be taking a stance for creative pedagogy by adopting such a policy, it will encourage applications from talented students who have a great deal to contribute to our University community.
I am available to meet with you in person if you would like to discuss this issue in greater depth
Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Founder and Director
Bronx African American History Project
Please feel free to use this letter, with appropriate adaptations, at other universities.


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