Not just students with special needs are negatively affected by standardized testing. Here is a story by a white, middle class student who consistently took Advanced Placement classes in a high school near Stockton, California. For her, standardized tests were not only a burden in themselves, but signaled a more general failure to meet students’ real educational and counseling needs. She writes:
“I remember feeling so impatient, because every year we would have to take standardized testing. They’d spend an hour telling you where to write your name, be sure to fill in the bubble completely, if you color outside of the bubble your tests will blah blah blah. It would be a whole hour of instruction just about where to write your name. The teachers seemed so stressed. I had teachers who really enjoyed teaching, and standardized testing wasn’t teaching. It was something that they had to do, not something they wanted to do or thought was a valuable use of time in the classroom. But we were required to do it.”
“I wasn’t aware in the beginning of any threat of teachers being fired or schools getting shut down – but I wondered why there was more stress on standardized testing than on the regular tests of material we were learning in class. I learned later that a lot of school websites publish the school ratings on the standardized tests, including all the data on demographics and scores. Bad results could reflect badly on the schools – that’s why there is so much pressure. Teachers and schools are afraid they will look bad. It’s not about education.” Continue reading
The desire to be in control is such a common and understandable human tendency that we forget that human progress is generally measured by the gradual giving up of control along with the wise sharing of power. Political progress, we generally agree, moves from totalitarianism to democracy, from slavery to freedom.
But, sadly, we forget. We stumble. Or maybe we just fall into the false belief that the means don’t affect the ends, i.e. that we can use top down decision making to achieve positive ends. John Dewey, great American philosopher and educator, wrote many pages on this fundamental fallacy in education. It’s worth reading.
I’d like to talk here about how this universal drama between hierarchical and horizontal control is being played out in the world of parent education in Santa Cruz County. Continue reading
In her new book, Reign of Error, just out last month, Diane Ravitch offers a stinging attack on Education Management Organizations (EMO’s), the charter school chains that are proliferating throughout this country. She compares them to Walmart or McDonalds, education organizations with many of the same goals and tactics as more typical corporations. Some are large chains, like the notorious Rocketship Schools in San Jose (who have recently hit the front pages of local newspapers due to the outrage that teachers and parents are feeling about their takeover of neighborhood schools.) And some, Ravitch says, are just small entrepreneurs, eyeing covetously the large pot of money in the public school system. I had thought that Santa Cruz was free of these chains, but learned from a friend that I was wrong. Santa Cruz County now seems to be hosting one of the small EMO’s. Continue reading