Please open the link and read Anthony Cody’s blog about Kenneth Ye, a high school student in Tennessee who spoke to his local school board in Knox County against Common Core, PARCC testing, Pearson, and standardization. Kenneth pointed out that he has aced all the tests that have come his way. He has extraordinary scores. But he sees no value in making the American system like the test-driven Chinese system.

He begins like this:

I am Kenneth Ye. I stand before you today as someone who has achieved within the mold of standardization. I speak as a student that has taken the tests and jumped through the hoops.

I’ve taken over 12 Honors courses and 18 AP courses so far in my high school career.

I’m a National Merit Semifinalist. A National AP Scholar. I scored a 35 on the ACT composite the first time I took it. And I am a proud product of Knox County Schools.

It’s my teachers that have inspired me to learn and pursue my interests. It’s my teachers that have sent me towards success in academics and extracurriculars. It’s my teachers that have FOSTERED a sense of creativity, inquisitiveness, and individuality that inspires me to learn.

Mr. Ye has no respect for the PARCC assessments of the Common Core standards. He said:

The problems presented on these tests, however, are of justification with no merit, a learning system inherently flawed. These tests are not fair assessments of student’s knowledge. If you look towards the mathematics section of the PARCC website, we see that it “calls for written arguments/justifications, critique of reasoning, or precision in mathematical statements”. As a student who has scored 5s on AP Calculus, AP Statistics, and is preparing to take Calculus 3 at a local college next semester, I can honestly tell you that I cannot answer and justify your First grade Pearson math test question “What is a related Subtraction sentence?”

In concluding his presentation, he said:

As we project towards the future, we must consider the implications of these policies being put into place. What will the standardization be like in 10 years? Shall we be taking the American equivalent of the Chinese entrance exams and Gao Kao? Our public education is striving to parallel the high technical efficiency of the Chinese, and as a student who has learned in both environments, I can clearly say that the increase in standardization and testing, coupled with the pressure that coalesces, will diminish the creative and inquisitive mindset that we seek to foster.

As someone who can perform on the tests you throw at us, I am not satisfied. I’ve taken your tests, aced them, pulled your state averages up, but what I show you on that test is not why I learn. CCSS.ELA-Literacy W.11-12.3e is NOT why I learn. I do not learn to fulfill some SPIs on the board. This is not what fulfills me as a student. I learn to ask questions. To develop opinions. To make a difference. It is with this that I beseech all of you to take a moment to reevaluate what you are doing to our schools. Is it truly in the best interest of the students? Should we be conforming to this ill formed bureaucracy?

After seeing the video of Kenneth Ye’s presentation, Anthony Cody reached out to interview him. In this question, he asked Mr. Ye to compare education in the United States and China:

What were your experiences with the education system in China, and what lessons should we take from this?

In my experience with the Chinese education system, a lot of the teaching and learning style is regimented. Speaking to the students there and even being there, you see that a lot of the teaching and even the thought process is based towards testing. A lot of students are focused completely on schoolwork and seem lost when it comes to personal opinions, because their education has shifted more towards memorization and regurgitation for testing. Students can tell you the precise number of words they need to know to pass an entrance exam, but often times if you ask for a simple opinion, you can expect blank stares.

From the students that I was with at a recent program, I’ve heard about the intensive measures that students will go towards to do well on a test. Whether it’s locking themselves in an isolated room and cramming for days on end or taking medication to reduce any biological influences on testing, I’ve seen that testing has taken over a lot of their lives. I think that we can learn a lot from this. Students in China are striving to attend schools in the US for a reason; we pride ourselves on being a society of free-thinkers. America has become a world power due to our innovative thinking – a thinking that is being oppressed in favor of standardized capability. I believe that if we’re continuing down this spiral of standardization, a lot of the creative mindset that we develop in schools will instead be taken over by sheer memorization and regurgitation.

It is an interesting reflection on the part of the student, because David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards, once famously said that “as you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give a s–t about what you feel or what you think.”

Mr. Ye does not agree. He thinks that the ability to think for yourself and reach your own conclusion is what makes American education different and valuable as compared to nations that generate higher test scores.