“Improve Test Scores, or else!” is not Education Reform

[A not-so-fond look back at the error of our educational ways during the Age of Accountability measures. Now that NCLB has been replaced by ESSA, how long will it be before the states move toward policies that allow assessment data to inform instruction rather than drive evaluation.]

The orders were clear and, at first blush, Sergeant Nickelby did not question them.

“Take your platoon and reconnoiter the town codenamed “Misfortune” prior to the arrival of the main force. Rumors are circulating that, in the chaos of enemy withdrawal, many families have been separated and your mission is to Leave No Child Behind.”

“This sounds simple enough!” the Sergeant said to his Corporal. “Perhaps a little good can come out of this mission and provide a little meaning in the absurdity of war.”

So, they packed up the gear in the troop carrier and set out.

It became immediately apparent, however, that leaving no child behind would be, at best, problematic. The enemy had taken all the adult “human capital” into forced labor, and the children had been on their own for some time. Sergeant Nickelby could not even get a firm count on the number of children, but there were many, many more than he and his men had the resources to handle. He got on the radio to the local commander.

“Major Shrub, there are too many children here for us to evacuate. We need some medical supplies, food, water and transports up here pronto…”

Major Shrub replied, “Line those children up and march them out of there on the double, hop to it!”

“But, Major Shrub!” the now befuddled Sergeant Nickelby began, “Some of these children no longer have any trust for us grown-ups, many are malnourished, some are ill, and still others are injured. Few, if any, of these children are prepared to keep up on a forced march.”

“Sergeant Nickelby, malingering is not permitted during this operation. Start physical training for the injured! Take their temperature and withhold milk and cookies from those with a fever. You are accountable for getting every one of those children where they need to be…”

Sergeant Nickelby could not believe his ears and, for the first time in his career, questioned the sanity of those in charge.

Major Shrub, growing increasingly impatient informed Sergeant Nickelby that if he could not accomplish this mission then he would be demoted, his men would receive fewer provisions and mercenaries would be brought in to replace them.

Sergeant Nickelby slammed down the headset, turned to his corporal and said, “This is no way to run a rescue effort!

…nor is it any way to regulate the Public Schools.


[I believe this Commentary originally appeared in the now defunct Prince George’s Journal in December of 2005.] 

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