the advocacy groups that claim they contain cultural biases
to the parents who worry about their overtested youngsters,
standardized tests are a hot topic of discussion, even more
so recently due to the Math A Regents test debacle. So many
students statewide failed the exam, which as of this year
is required for graduation, that it was tossed out. Educators
sternly criticized the test for including material that was
not covered in their classes.
There’s also new legislation requiring public alternative
schools—many of which are in New York City—that previously
were excluded from the exam frenzy to test their students.
This an issue that has Jerry Mintz, director of the nonprofit
networking group Alternative Education Resource Organization,
Mintz is the organizer of an event dedicated to the high-stakes
testing issue, the International Democratic Education Conference,
to be held in Troy next week. The conference is in its 11th
year, and this is the first time that it’ll be held in North
America—which is fitting, since Albany’s Free School, the
oldest inner-city democratic school in the United States,
is hosting the event (although the school had to rent out
Russell Sage College to fit the more than 400 people, representing
25 countries, attending).
a huge issue,” Free School director Chris Mercogliano said
while discussing high-stakes testing. “It’s killing what little
innovation there was in the public school system—what little
potential there was for doing things differently.”
One of the results of this testing is that the teachers must
teach the test to keep their jobs: If the kids fail, the teachers
walk. “In Texas they shut entire schools down if the school
doesn’t pass the damn test,” Mercogliano said. “They fire
the entire staff and start all over again the next year.”
And with George Bush currently in the White House, Mercogliano
fears for New York state’s future. New York currently requires
high-stakes testing only in high school. “If Bush has his
way,” states Mercogliano, “there will be a national exam for
every grade, starting at first grade.”
Susan Ohanian, an outspoken opponent of high-stakes testing
and a keynote speaker at the conference, talks about the stress
on our youth due to these tests in her latest book, What
Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in
Kindergarten? “High stakes testing has produced terror-stricken
kindergartners afraid of failing,” she says in her book.
Other conference speakers include New York State Assembly
Education Committee Chairman Steven Sanders (D-NYC), Assemblyman
Ruben Diaz Jr. (D-Bronx), Monty Neill, the director of the
Center for Fair and Open Testing, and Israeli educator Yaacov
Hecht, founder of 23 democratic schools in Israel.
The eight-day event will take place at Russell Sage College
in Troy through July 24 (it began July 16). The public is
invited; go to the Web site, www.idec2003.com, for information.
Acres animal shelter is hosting an Adopt-a-Thon on Saturday
(July 19) in hopes of finding homes for orphan canines in
On July 19 from 10 AM to 3 PM, the Adopt-a-Thon will be held
at Emerald Acres at 1197 Mariaville Road in Schenectady. The
event is cosponsored by Out of the Pits, AnimaLovers, Peppertree
Rescue, Good Shepard Canine Rescue and the Hudson-Mohawk Humane
The goal for the Adopt-a-Thon is ultimately to find homes
for the dogs and increase public awareness of the shelter.
Owner and dog lover Wendy Cookingham was disappointed with
the response Emerald Acres received from a series of advertisements,
and decided the Adopt-a-Thon would inform more people about
its services. She also hopes to increase the awareness of
the various rescue groups, which she believes many people
do not know about.
trying to get all the rescuers together in one place and enlighten
people on what they do and how they do it,” said Cookingham.
Saturday’s events will feature agility demonstrations by the
dogs—mostly by the pit bulls, which Cookingham feels are getting
a bad rap.
Wendy and her husband Ron Cookingham began barking up this
tree last December when they bought the shelter and kennel
from the previous owners (who retired), and have devoted the
last eight months to cleaning it and spending time with the
dogs. Cookingham even uses her family to test the dogs’ interaction
do the best we can to make their lives the best as possible
while they’re here,” says Cookingham, who has four dogs of
her own. “When they’re here, they’re like my dogs.”
The event sponsors work together every day to save dogs from
being put down after wearing out their welcome at shelters.
Often, one shelter can’t afford to keep a dog for a longer
than six days.
Emerald Acres both searches for dogs’ owners and tries to
find them a new home, posting doggy snapshots on the Web in
hopes their owner or an interested party might be browsing.