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A hope note

It bothers me that public schools now are so fixated on test scores. Teachers feel pressured to ‘teach to the test’; principals’ job security is largely tied to rising or falling scores at their schools; state and federal funds follow the numbers.
Is testing the goal of it all, the ultimate judge of the quality of an education? Or is there something greater?
Dr. Sheldon Berman, superintendent of Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools, wrote something that I find profound and visionary. ‘With the national educational agenda focused on testing and accountability, schools and districts have begun to define themselves and their mission in terms of improving test scores … We often forget that public education serves a larger purpose. That larger mission is to help young people develop the convictions and skills to shape a safe, sustainable and just world.’
I think the same holds true for religious education. Is knowing religious information, memorizing Bible verses, making 100 on a test over Bible content the goal of it all? Or is that a means to an end, of building a more ‘safe, sustainable and just world?’ To quote the prophet Micah: ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, practice kindness and walk humbly with the Lord?’
Late in life humorist, Sam Levinson wrote: ‘To my grandchildren and to children everywhere: I am leaving you everything I have had in my lifetime, a good family, respect for learning, compassion for my fellowman and some four-letter words for all occasions, help, give, care, feel, love.’
There’s something more important than getting the answer right on a test, and that’s gaining understanding and wisdom. There’s something more important than being an A student, and that’s developing convictions that will create a safer, more sustainable, more just world.