Sarah Garland, writing for the HECHINGER Report, says that the Reagan-era report “A Nation at Risk” (1983) laid the groundwork for today’s regime of high-takes testing, longer school hours, and tougher accountability measures. The conservative Republicans he quotes express satisfaction with the Obama administration’s embrace of their agenda. The enduring puzzle: who stole the Democratic agenda of equity and teacher professionalism?
The Vermont State Board of Education adopted a resolution on assessment and accountability with a message: We will not let the federal government bully our children. We read research and incorporate it into our policy decisions. This set of principles and resolutions could serve as a guide for every state and school district about the appropriate uses of assessment and the true goals of education in our society.
Vermont State Board of Education
Statement and Resolution on Assessment and Accountability Adopted August 19, 2014
The Vermont State Board of Education is committed to ensuring that all students develop the knowledge, capabilities and dispositions they need to thrive as citizens in their communities, higher education and their careers in the 21st century. The Board of Education’s Education Quality Standards (EQS) rules aim to ensure that all students in Vermont public schools are afforded educational opportunities that are substantially equal in quality, and enable them to achieve or exceed the standards approved by the State Board of Education.
These rules were designed to ensure continuous improvement in student performance, instruction and leadership, so that all students are able to develop high levels of skill and capability across seven essential domains: literacy, mathematics, scientific inquiry and knowledge, global citizenship, physical and health education and wellness, artistic expression, and transferable 21st century skills.
To achieve these goals, educators need to make use of diverse indicators of student learning and strengths, in order to comprehensively assess student progress and adjust their practice to continuously improve learning. They also need to document the opportunities schools provide to further the goals of equity and growth.
Uniform standardized tests, administered across all schools, are a critical tool for schools’ improvement efforts. Without some stable and valid external measure, we cannot evaluate how effective we are in our efforts to improve schools and learning. Standardized tests – along with teacher-developed assessments and student work samples — can give educators and citizens insight into the skills, knowledge and capabilities our students have developed.
What standardized tests can do that teacher developed tests cannot do is give us reliable, comparative data. We can use test scores to tell whether we are doing better over time. Of particular note, standardized tests help monitor how well we serve students with different life circumstances and challenges. When used appropriately, standardized tests are a sound and objective way to evaluate student progress.
Despite their value, there are many things tests cannot tell us. Standardized tests like the NECAP and soon, the SBAC, can tell us something about how students are doing in a limited set of narrowly defined subjects overall, as measured at a given time. However, they cannot tell us how to help students do even better. Nor can they adequately capture the strengths of all children, nor the growth that can be ascribed to individual teachers. And under high-stakes conditions, when schools feel extraordinary pressure to raise scores, even rising scores may not be a signal that students are actually learning more. At best, a standardized test is an incomplete picture of learning: without additional measures, a single test is inadequate to capture a years’ worth of learning and growth.
Along a related dimension, the American Psychological Association wrote:
“(N)o test is valid for all purposes. Indeed, tests vary in their intended uses and in their ability to provide meaningful assessments of student learning. Therefore, while the goal of using large-scale testing to measure and improve student and school system performance is laudable, it is also critical that such tests are sound, are scored properly, and are used appropriately.”
Unfortunately, the way in which standardized tests have been used under federal law as almost the single measure of school quality has resulted in the frequent misuse of these instruments across the nation.
Because of the risk of inappropriate uses of testing, the Vermont State Board of Education herewith adopts a series of guiding principles for the appropriate use of standardized tests to support continuous improvements of learning.
1. The Proper Role of Standardized Testing – The purpose of any large scale assessment must be clearly stated and the assessments must be demonstrated as scientifically and empirically valid for that purpose(s) prior to their use. This includes research and verification as to whether a student’s performance on tests is actually predictive of performance on other indicators we care about, including post-secondary success, graduation rates and future employment.
In addition, standardized test results should be used only in concert with a diverse set of measures that capture evidence of student growth and school impact across all important outcomes outlined in the Education Quality Standards.
2. Public Reporting Requirement – It is a state and local obligation to report on the quality of the schools to the citizenry. Standardized testing is part of this reporting obligation. The state board encourages local public reporting of a diverse and comprehensive set of school quality indicators in local school, faculty and community communications.
3. Judicious and Proportionate Testing – The State Board of Education advocates for reducing the amount of time spent on summative, standardized testing and encourages the federal government to reduce the current requirements for annual testing in multiple subjects in every grade, 3-8, and then again in high school. Excessive testing diverts resources and time away from learning while providing little additional value for accountability purposes.
4. Test Development Criteria – Any broad scale standardized assessment used in the state of Vermont must be developed and used appropriately in accord with the principles adopted by the American Educational Research Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and the American Psychological Association.
5. Value-added scores – Although the federal government is encouraging states to use value added scores for teacher, principal and school evaluations, this policy direction is not appropriate. A strong body of recent research has found that there is no valid method of calculating “value-added” scores which compare pass rates from one year to the next, nor do current value-added models adequately account for factors outside the school that influence student performance scores. Thus, other than for research or experimental purposes, this technique will not be employed in Vermont schools for any consequential purpose.
6. Mastery level or Cut-Off scores – While the federal government continues to require the use of subjectively determined, cut-off scores; employing such metrics lacks scientific foundation. The skills needed for success in society are rich and diverse. Consequently, there is no single point on a testing scale that has proven accurate in measuring the success of a school or in measuring the talents of an individual. Claims to the contrary are technically indefensible and their application would be unethical.
The use of cut-off scores reports findings only at one point on a statistical distribution. Scale scores provide significantly more information. They allow a more valid disaggregation of scores by sub-group, provide better measures of progress and provide a more comprehensive view of achievement gaps.
7. Use of cut scores and proficiency categories for reporting purposes – Under NCLB states are required to report school level test results in terms of the Percentage of Proficient Students. The federally mandated reporting method has several well-documented negative effects that compromise our ability to meaningfully examine schools’ improvement efforts:
Interpretations based on “percent proficient” hides the full range of scores and how they have changed. Thus, underlying trends in performance are often hidden.
The targets established for proficiency are subjectively determined and are not based on research. Interpretations based on “percent proficient” also lack predictive validity.
Modest changes to these subjective cut scores can dramatically affect the percent of students who meet the target. Whether a cut score is set high or low arbitrarily changes the size of the achievement gap independent of the students’ learning. Thus, the results can be misleading.
So that we can more validly and meaningfully describe school- and state-level progress, the State Board of Education endorses reporting performance in terms of scale scores and standard deviations rather than percent proficient. We will comply with federal requirements, but will emphasize defensible and useful reporting metrics.
8. The Federal, State and Local Obligation for Assuring Adequacy and Equality of Opportunity – Much as the state must insure a high quality education for all children, the school must be provided with adequate and equitable resources from the federal, state and local governments and must use these resources wisely and judiciously. Thus, any report on a school based on the state’s EQS standards must also include a report on the adequacy of resources provided by or to that school in light of the school’s unique needs. Such evaluations shall address the adequacy of resources, the judicious use of resources and identify any deficiencies.
Resolution on Assessment and Accountability Vermont State Board of Education
WHEREAS, our nation and Vermont’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s and the state’s social and economic well-being; and
WHEREAS, our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and
WHEREAS, the overreliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in the nation’s public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and
WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and
WHEREAS, a compelling body of national research shows the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in areas such as narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, and undermining school climate; and
WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and
WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it
RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education requests that the Secretary of Education reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which has at its center qualitative assessments, does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, decreases the role of compliance monitoring, and is used to support students and improve schools; and
RESOLVED, that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on the United States Congress and Administration to accordingly amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act”) to reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states; and
RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on other state and national organizations to act in concert with these goals to improve and broaden educational goals, provide adequate resources, and ensure a high quality education for all children of the state and the nation.
This just in from a member of NEA from Massachusetts who is at the Denver convention. She hopes that Lily Eskelsen, the new president, will be a champion and fighter for kids, teachers, and public schools. Is she THE ONE? Will she stand up to the phony “reformers”? Will she fight for democratic control of the schools? Will she tell the plutocrats to use their billions to alleviate poverty instead of taking control of the schools?
I think Lily has it in her. Until proven wrong, I am placing bets that she will stand up fearlessly for what is right, that she will tell Arne Duncan to scram, that she will tell the billionaires to get another hobby.
Here is the message from one of her members:
My comment is awaiting moderation on Lily’s Blackboard.
Here it is.
Lily, thank you for posting this opportunity for substantive engagement on the Gates question.
I’m an activist NEA member in Massachusetts, in a low income district heavily engaged with the policies Bill and Melinda have imposed through their legislative interference and advocacy lobbying, with the compliance of the outgoing Massachusetts Teachers Association leadership.
MTA and NEA compliance directly aided in the imposition of Gates-backed corporate domination in my Commonwealth’s public schools, in my school, in my actual classroom, and over the actual living students I teach.
The (false) distinction you make between Gates’ imposed “standards” and the accountability measures he demands for them will allow the NEA to continue to take his money, and I’ll admit that almost chokes rank-and-file teachers who live and work under his heel. I am going to argue that you to can make a decision of your own, when you take office, to give that money back to him.
First, I’d like to offer congratulations on your succession to the presidency of NEA. The Representative assembly that voted you in brought with it a new activism and determination, and voted in resolutions which break sharply with the previous administration, of which you were a part. We look to you with great hope, holding our breath against it for fear of disappointment.
The Common Core standards can’t “stand on their own merit”. They were backwards-engineered to warp the teaching of language and literature into assessment readiness, with its own novel testing vocabulary. strung together with the bogus Moodle diagram you inserted in this page. The aligned WIDA tests that are now being imposed on ELL students, from the earliest grades, will steal the short and precious window of their childhood. People are tweeting me that those children can’t wait while you do your homework and find that out.
We’re fighting right now for schools in New Bedford and Holyoke that are already being taken over. They were full of living children, just a few weeks ago when we left them. What will we find in August?
We’re asking you to become the courageous and powerful leader of an engaged and mobilized union. I know you saw and felt the hall rise to its feet behind these initiatives. That felt different and deeper than the hearty applause for your victory, did it not?
Bring us to our feet: give back the Gates money.
The website I linked for you is an Education Week column describing the actual effects of the Gates Foundation’s profit-centered philanthropy model in the third world. It’s the responsibility of Americans to become aware of it, when we take money from American corporate philanthropies and allow them to pursue their profits internationally under the subsidy of our tax code.
Why Arne Duncan needs to listen to Bill and Melinda | Li…
I do not hate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I know it might seem strange to have to make that statement, but such are the times we live in.
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NEA delegates approve creation of national campaign for equity and against “Toxic Testing”
Campaign to focus on assessments and developing real accountability systems
DENVER—The National Education Association (NEA) will launch a national campaign to put the focus of assessments and accountability back on ensuring equity and supporting student learning and end the “test blame and punish” system that has dominated public education in the last decade. The average American student and teacher now spend about 30 percent of the school year preparing for and taking standardized tests. NEA’s nearly 9,000 delegates voted today at its 2014 Representative Assembly for new measures to drive student success.
“The testing fixation has reached the point of insanity,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Whatever valuable information testing mandates provided have been completely overshadowed by the enormous collateral damage inflicted on too many students. Our schools have been reduced to mere test prep factories and we are too-often ignoring student learning and opportunity in America.”
The measure approves the use of NEA resources to launch a national campaign to end the high stakes use of standardized tests, to sharply reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by tests, and to implement more effective forms of assessment and accountability. The impact of excessive testing is particularly harmful to many poor, minority, and special needs students.
“The sad truth is that test-based accountability has not closed the opportunity gaps between affluent and poor schools and students,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It has not driven funding and support to the students from historically underfunded communities who need it most. Poverty and social inequities have far too long stood in the way of progress for all students.”
The anti-toxic testing measure calls for governmental oversight of the powerful testing industry with the creation of a “testing ombudsman” by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. The position will serve as a watchdog over the influential testing industry and monitor testing companies’ impact on education legislation. NEA will continue to push the president and Congress to completely overhaul ESEA and return to grade-span testing thus ending NCLB’s mandates that require yearly testing, and to lift mandates requiring states to administer outdated tests that are not aligned to school curricula.
“It is past time for politicians to turn their eyes and ears away from those who profit from over-testing our students and listen instead to those who know what works in the classroom,” said Van Roekel.
NEA delegates also reaffirmed their commitment to high standards for all students and committed to further working with states that adopted the Common Core State Standards to ensure they are properly implemented and that educators are empowered to lead in that implementation process.
Delegates also passed new language on improving accountability systems, pushing for implementation of systems providing “real accountability in our public education system,” said Van Roekel. Delegates agreed to convene a broad representative group of NEA leaders from the national, state and local level to develop plans for public school accountability and support systems.
“Educators know that real accountability in public schools requires all stakeholders to place student needs at the center of all efforts. Real accountability in public schools requires that everyone—lawmakers, teachers, principals, parents, and students—partner in accepting responsibility for improving student learning and opportunity in America.”
Van Roekel insists that in order for real, sustainable change to occur in public education, major work must be done to provide equity in our schools and address the growing inequality in opportunities and resources for students across our nation.
The group will examine what steps NEA can take to build further on the components of excellence in teacher evaluation and accountability identified in NEA’s Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability, which was approved at the 2011 Representative Assembly in Chicago.
The accountability group will engage stakeholders in the education and civil rights communities to help respond to the growing inequality in opportunities and resources for students across the nation. Inequality must be addressed in order for real, sustainable change to occur in the public education system.
To follow floor action at the NEA 2014 Representative Assembly, please click here or follow @RAtoday on twitter at twitter.com/RAToday.
Oregon Educator, a high school principal in that state, poses some hard questions about the federal role in education.
The federal government puts up about 12% of the cost of public education but has grown increasingly assertive about exercising maximal control over state and local decision-making.
“In 1965, President Johnson’s landmark education bill was designed to equalize schooling as part of his War on
Poverty. It went a long way to accomplishing that. Unfortunately, now fifty years later, the federal dollars constitute less help and more control, resulting in testing regimens and a hyper-concentration on the tested skills that undermine programs in the arts and sciences as well as experiential learning that has been shown effective. We are now down the rabbit hole of tightly managed programs with single metrics (tests) that lead to ever more restrictive programs. Schools in poor neighborhoods are scapegoated while other poverty factors are ignored. And because we can now blame public schools for their alleged poor performance, more and more of public education dollars are skimmed off by charter schools, many of them run by highly profitable corporations.”
Is the transfer of power to Washington, D.C., irreversible. No, it is not. As the public becomes aware that all of the Bush-Obama initiatives have failed and that state and local control has been replaced by corporate control, there will be a demand to reverse the power-hungry federal control of public education. Federal control was not the intent of Congress in 1965 when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed. Nor was it the intent of Congress when the Department of Education was created in 1979. No child Left Behind was and is a failed aw. Obama’s Race to the Top is NCLB on steroids. The two in tandem are imposing failed ideas and doing serious harm to public education. The only question is whether our schools can survive nearly three more years of Arne Duncan’s destructive “leadership.”
Laurel Sturt says that old-fashioned schoolyard bullying has evolved into Internet malice, protected by anonymity. She says bullying has become a national pastime for some political leaders. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has cultivated a reputation as a bully, jabbing his finger at lesser mortals.
And then bullying is built into education policy–federal, state, and local.
“Though the psychopathic rush of inflicting pain on another human being is not one most of us would appreciate, we have only to look at the realm of education to see an acceleration of bullying, in multiple guises. Take, for example, the oppressive federal mandates sent down from on high, No Child Left Behind, and its successor, Race to the Top. Here we have, for all intents and purposes, sadistic edicts impossible to fulfill, the charge of NCLB, “proficiency” for all children by 2014, nothing short of an iron mask for teachers and kids alike; states were bullied to participate to get millions in federal school funding. One would think subjecting kids to the torture of test prep and testing while losing a decade of authentic education, tilting futilely at an arbitrary data windmill, would have been consigned to the mistakes file. Yet, showing that arm twisting through policy is an equal opportunity, bipartisan affront, through his Bully of Education Arne Duncan, the very premise of Obama’s RTTT has relied on the legalized notion of bullying, bribery and extortion: sign on to our agenda or you’ll starve for funds.
“Within the Race to the Top straitjacket, then, the bullying theme has continued with the individual mandates: bullying standards developed undemocratically by not educators but profit-motivated bullies; bullied instruction forced on teachers by these standards; and parents bullied to share their children’s private data, their rights to privacy stripped by education business lobbyist cum bullies. Then there’s the bullying of teachers through evaluations unfairly tied to the test scores of the bullied kids, victimized students who, subjected to impossible work and tests, are displaying symptoms of bullying–depression, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, hopelessness, with the added bonus of a PTSD scar for life.
“Move down to the next level of power, and state and local bullying is flourishing. Here in New York we have a governor and education officials stonily unmoved by the pain they’ve signed us onto with RTTT, with no movement in sight to end it, notwithstanding a coming fall election; their intransigent coercion in the face of hardship is bullying. New York City teachers and students recently endured a decade of bullying micromanagement under the dictator Michael Bloomberg, a mayor in control of the schools, a nationwide experiment which has yielded low achievement results but a much higher degree of yes, bullying.”
Bullying moves into the classroom, where teachers are compelled to violate their professional ethics by authoritarian principals.
The bullying will continue until teachers stand united and resist. Those who bully them, steal their reputations and their profession can and must be stopped. Resistance is the best defense against the bullies. Don’t stand alone. Stand together.
Thanks to Mercedes Schneider for bringing this article to my attention.
If you have ever wondered why Congress refuses to abandon or revise or do anything to the failed No Child Left Behind, this article explains why.
NCLB declared that all schools would have 100% proficiency by 2014. Even in 2002, after the law was signed, it was already obvious that many members of Congress did not believe that 100% proficiency was possible. As one superintendent in the article says, the law demands that immigrant children who have been in the country for one year must be 100% proficient in reading and math, and that is impossible. Others pointed out that no country in the world has 100% proficiency.
Yet Congress clings to NCLB because no one will say that some children might not be proficient. So a law that is harmful, punitive, impossible, and already a manifest failure, remains on the book.
By the year 2014, all children in grades 3-8 will be proficient in math and reading.
In 2002, I asked my former boss at the U.S. Department of Education, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, whether he believed that the goal was feasible. His answer, in a public forum at the Willard Hotel in Washington, was: “No, Diane, I don’t believe that, but it is good to have goals.” In this article, he is quoted five years later saying there is no way to abandon that impossible goal:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former U.S. education secretary and supporter of the law, said Americans don’t want politicians to lower standards.
“Are we going to rewrite the Declaration of Independence and say only 85 percent of men are created equal?” Alexander asked. “Most of our politics in America is about the disappointment of not meeting the high goals we set for ourselves.”
Will we ever have public officials–elected and appointed–who are willing to level with us, to recognize failure of their legislation and programs when it stares them in the face, to get out of the business of telling educators how to educate children? Will we ever have public officials who do what they were elected to do instead of meddling in institutions they do not understand and setting utopian goals that create failure, disruption, and demoralization?
This NPR report summarizes the 12th grade NAEP report: Scores for high school seniors are flat. Reading scores in 2013 were lower than in 1992.
While there were small gains for each racial and ethnic group since 2005, there were no gains at all since 2009, when Race to the Top was initiated.
Achievement gaps among racial and ethnic groups remain wide.
Secretary of Education gnashed his teeth and said the results were troubling, and he is right. The chair of the National Assessment Governing Board said the results were unacceptable, and he is right.
In mathematics, the states that made the biggest gains in proficient students were: South Dakota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Only one of these–Massachusetts–won a Race to the Top award.
Also in mathematics, the states that had a lower percentage of proficient students than the rest of the nation were: Tennessee, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Florida. Two of the lowest performing states won Race to the Top awards: Tennessee and Florida.
In reading, the states that outperformed the nation were Idaho, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Dakota. Only one of these states–Massachusetts–won a Race to the Top award.
Also in reading, the states that had the lowest percentage of proficient students were: Tennessee, Arkansas, and West Virginia. Tennessee won a Race to the Top award.
These twelfth graders started school about the time that No Child Left Behind was signed into law, on january 8, 2002. Their entire school lives has been dominated by testing. The survival of their school depended on their test scores. Billions and billions of dollars have been diverted from classroom instruction to testing corporations. Many districts have increased class sizes and reduced services to students. Some leave closed libraries and laid off librarian, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. Many thousands of teachers have lost their job. But the testing industry has grown to be a multi-billion dollar enterprise, fattened by NCLB and RTTT.
Secretary Duncan is right. This is indeed troubling. It is time to change course. The policies of the Bush-Obama era have failed.
The Los Angeles Times tells us what we should already know: The higher the stakes on exams, the more bad consequences will follow.
In India, there are crucial exams, and cheating is a persistent problem. Ingenious students us their ingenuity not to answer the questions, but to find ways to get the right answer, either electronically by remote device or by sneaking in old-fashioned crib sheets.
In the United States, we have seen numerous examples of cheating by administrators and teachers, as in El Paso, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. We have also seen narrowing of the curriculum to make time for more test preparation and loss of the arts, libraries, physical education, and even recess. We have seen teaching to the test, a practice once considered unprofessional. We have seen states game the system, dropping the pass score to artificially boost the passing rate.
The story in the L.A. Times describes a business that sells electronic devices to text exam questions to someone outside who responds with the correct answer. Officials are aware of the problem:
“At a test center in northern India’s Bareilly district, state-appointed inspectors making a surprise visit last month found school staff members writing answers to a Hindi exam on the blackboard. When the inspectors arrived, the staff members tried to throw the evidence out the window.
“Sometimes the stories are horrifying. A 10th-grader in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, accused his principal last month of allowing students to cheat if they each paid about $100. The student’s impoverished family could barely manage half the bribe. Distraught, he doused himself with kerosene and set himself on fire in the family kitchen. He died the next day.
“At the well-regarded Balmohan Vidyamandir school in central Mumbai, 10th-grade teacher Shubhada Nigudkar didn’t notice the math formulas written on the wall in the back of the classroom in a neat, tiny script until days after the exams concluded.
“There is nothing we can do at that point,” the matronly, bespectacled English teacher said. “I can’t prove anything. So we move on.”
“The problems have prompted education officials to take preventive measures that at first blush might seem worthy of a minimum-security prison. Some schools installed closed-circuit cameras to monitor testing rooms. Others posted armed police officers at entrances or employed jamming devices to block the use of cellphones to trade answers.”
The problem is high-stakes testing. Our own officials in the United States can’t get enough.
The best antidote would be to require them to take the exams they mandate. If they can’t pass them, they should resign.
Someday, in the not distant future, when the history of this era is recorded, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top will be recalled among the biggest policy failures of our times. They will be remembered as policies that undermined the quality of education, demoralized educators, promoted the privatization of schools, and destroyed children’s love of learning.
Jeff Bryant of the Education Opportunity Network writes in Salon that voters are increasingly disenchanted with the bipartisan Bush-Obama education policies of high-stakes testing, Common Core, and privatization.
He points out that the attacks on public education are not playing well at all in the political arena. The overwhelming majority of parents are very happy with their local public schools and respect their teachers. The public is beginning to see through the lies they have been told about their schools. So much of the rhetoric of the “reformers” sounds appealing and benign, if not downright inspirational, but it ends up as nonstop testing, the closing of local public schools, merit pay, union-busting, the enrichment of multinational corporations, and standardization.
Bryant predicts that Democrats will suffer at the polls for their slavish espousal of hard-right GOP doctrine.
“The only overriding constants? People generally like their local schools, trust their children’s teachers and think public school and teachers should get more money. Wonder when a politician will back that!
“Many observers, including journalists at The Wall Street Journal, have accurately surmised that the American public is currently deeply divided on education policy. But that analysis barely scratches the surface.
“Go much deeper and you find that the “new liberal consensus” that Adam Serwer wrote about in Mother Jones, which propelled Obama into a second term, believes in funding the nation’s public schools but has little to no allegiance to Obama’s education reform policies.
“Outside of the elite circles of the Beltway and the very rich, who continue to be the main proponents of these education policies, it is getting harder and harder to discern who exactly is the constituency being served by the reform agenda.
“Most Americans do not see any evidence that punitive measures aimed at their local schools are in any way beneficial to their children and grandchildren. In fact, there’s some reasonable doubt whether the president himself understands it.
So is Arne Duncan making education policy on his own? Or is the policy agenda of the Obama administration indistinguishable from that of rightwing Republicans like Bobby Jindal, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mike Pence, and Tom Corbett?