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Politics and Government

Katko calling for more flexibility in education

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Ellen Abbott
/
WRVO News File Photo
Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus)

Syracuse-area Rep. John Katko is touring schools in central New York this week, looking for ways to strengthen education policy.

It’s a story Katko says he’s heard again and again: federally mandated standardized testing is stifling teaching flexibility, and forcing all children to be taught in a one-size-fits-all curriculum. To make his point at a news conference Tuesday, he read a letter he received from an Onondaga County sixth grader, upset at the way he sees test prep taking over schools.

"While preparing for the tests, we do not fun learning projects, but instead are drilled for these types of questions. I noticed how worried some teachers are, that stresses students for unnecessary reasons,” Katko said, reading from the letter.

That’s one reason Katko has signed on to the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act, which would encourage greater flexibility, and cut the number of standardized tests kids have to take.  

The Republican also asking the Congressional Research Service to get a better sense of just how American education stacks up with education around the world, by drilling down into the education statistics that have driven the testing strategy. 

“So I’m asking them to take out the high poverty areas of the statistics, and then tell us how the rest of the kids stack up against the world. I suspect it’ll be much higher and a much more level playing field. And if that’s the case, aren’t we missing the real problem here.”  

The congressman says when you compare Syracuse’s struggling school district to more affluent suburban districts, it’s obvious the system isn’t working.

"You can’t teach a kid in East LA in California, the same way you teach a kid at the West Genesee school District in Camillus, or the same way you teach them in the city school district in Syracuse.  There’s different backgrounds, different factors you have to take into consideration from poverty to educational backgrounds.”

Katko is also encouraging expansion of mental health services for youth.