Peter Greene posted a commentary by Emily Kaplan, a teacher who worked in a no-excuses charter school in Boston, considered one of the best in the city because of its high test scores. Disturbed by the pressure that teachers must exert to get those high scores, Emily left the charter school and now teaches in a public school. She describes the shame and other tactics used to motivate students to try harder to ace the tests.


Yes, the students get high scores on the state tests, which is very satisfying to the charter advocates and helps them in their appeal to get more charters and  more funding from private and public sources.


But here is the problem:


The problem is that standardized test scores mean very little. On the only tests that do mean a tremendous amount for these students— the SSATs— students at the school I taught at perform abysmally. Subsequently, these same middle schoolers who often dramatically outperform their wealthy white peers on these tests are not accepted in large numbers to the most selective high schools (and most of those who do struggle socially and emotionally when thrust into student bodies that aren’t upwards of 98% students of color); struggle to succeed academically in high school (81% earn high school grade-point averages below 3.0 in the first semester); and certainly do not thrive after high school, graduating from college at very low rates and, among those who don’t go to college, failing in large numbers to secure full-time employment.

Correlation is not causation, after all; the fact that those wealthy white students who do well on state standardized tests go on to enjoy tremendous opportunities, in education and in life, does not mean that these scores cause these outcomes. This fallacy, however, constitutes the fuel of the no-excuses runaway train, and leads to the dehumanization of children of color at schools like the one at which I taught. At this school, children are deprived of a comprehensive, developmentally appropriate, and humane education; instead, they are subjected to militaristic discipline, excessive amounts of testing (well beyond that which is already mandated by the state), a criminally deficient amount of playtime (in a nine-hour school day, kindergartners have twenty minutes of recess), and lack of access to social-emotional curricula— all so that the people who run their schools can make a political point.