At the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, the oratory of President Obama achieved inspirational heights! His comment about educational opportunity was incisive, “…we do expect equal opportunity, and if we really mean it, if we’re willing to sacrifice for it, then we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century…”
The overwhelming majority of those who devote their lives to children fondly embrace the sentiment expressed in that rhetoric. However, we also wish that fewer plutocrats and oligarchs had the President’s ear when the subject becomes how best to achieve that goal.
Business-model accountability measures are effectively strangling Public Education.
Even a cursory examination of the data from 2000-2012 suggests that NCLB/RTT have been abysmal failures as education reform policy. It also confirms what the education community knew all along: our nation has done little to reverse what Jonathan Kozol called the Savage Inequalities in schools that serve economically-disadvantaged students.
As for closing what is becoming known as the Poverty Gap in academic achievement, more than a decade of the “test and punish” philosophy has failed to move the needle one iota. That gap has actually widened. The assessment craze has resulted, however, in much improved profit margins for testing companies and purveyors of curricula.
Every year, the disruption to the school calendar increases as schools cede ever more days to the delivery of federal & state mandated assessments. The testing schedule in Prince George’s County now comprises four pages and, nationally, school systems average 51 days of testing each year. Factor in “test-preparation” and interface training for the new, computerized PARCC platform and at least one-third of the school year is consumed by assessment related activities.
At a recent televised meeting of the PGCPS Board of Education meeting, a member of the Board asked if the system has any special activities planned to mark “Math Month” in April. Within seconds my iPhone buzzed with an incoming text message from a rank-and-file teacher. It said, “Sure, more tests.”
How could the sacrifice of so much time from teaching-and-learning reasonably be expected to improve student achievement?
[This commentary originally appeared in the now defunct Prince George’s Gazette on 3/26/2015.]