Mercedes Schneider has written an indispensable post about standardized testing: She noticed that the annual testing mandated by the federal government is beloved by those who are farthest from the classroom and have nothing to do with teaching and learning.

Perhaps she is responding to the recent report that Betsy DeVos will not allow waivers from the mandated testing next year, since the tests are so vital, and her announcement was cheered by the Center for American Progress (a neoliberal think tank), Education Trust (led by former Secretary of Education John King), the Council of Chief State School Officers, Senator Patty Murray (ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee), and Rep. Bobby Scott (chair of the House Education Committee).

Schneider writes:

This is what standardized testing has been in public schools across America ever since No Child Left Behind (NCLB):

It’s like some president-backed, bipartisan Congress decided that we need to measure student physical health based on student weight. Of course, student physical health is by far too complex a concept to be captured by student weight, but let’s just put that reality aside in favor of the appearance of being able to pack a huge, complex package into a matchbox by getting those kids on the scale and putting the onus on teachers and schools to make students weight what the state (answering to the federal government in exchange for funding) decides those students should weigh.

Now, it is ridiculous on its face to hold teachers and schools responsible for student weight– which is why no bathroom scale company will guarantee that their scales are meant to be used to determine anything beyond the weight of the person standing on the scale. However, that president-backed, bipartisan Congress has decided that schools and teachers must ensure that their students achieve some predetermined optimal weight.

So. Weight-prep programs are instituted for students at risk of not achieving their state-determined optimal weights, the point of which is to drill students in scale-optimizing strategies (i.e., where to stand on the scale in order to make the weight appear higher or lower; how to push down on the scale to “weigh more”). In order to make time in the school day for these at-risk weighers to be drilled and redrilled, they must miss lunch, group sports, and playtime, but what is important to the school and to the teacher is achieving the optimal weight number so that we can tout that number, tag the student as physically healthy, keep our jobs, and collect federal dollars.

Surely we also congratulate the hungry and lethargic student for achieving that state-determined weight number. And if anyone points out that the student is hungry and lethargic, supporters of the process ignore the child and tout the number.

Be it noted that the annual standardized testing mandated by NCLB has led to cheating scandals, narrowing of the curriculum, and teaching to the test. For the past decade, there has been no change in NAEP scores.

NCLB failed. Why not admit it and move forward? Why continue to inhale the stale fumes of past policies that failed?

Why won’t prominent Democrats stop embracing NCLB and develop a vision of their own that actually helps students and teachers?