Civil Disobedience

Test refusal is an act of civil disobedience.

52 years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. explained the chain of events that typically leads to civil disobedience and the reasons it must occur.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

“IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.”

The United Opt Out Movement is a campaign to, among other things, end high-stakes testing that has been firmly embedded in public schools through the No Child Left Behind law.. (and now continues with the Every Student Succeeds Act)…

As Dr. King explained it:

“There are just laws, and there are unjust laws…. A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law… Any law that degrades human personality is unjust… [it] distorts the soul and damages the personality…. [creating a] false sense of inferiority.”

Over-emphasis on standardized tests’ importance, their over-administration, and the inappropriate uses of standardized tests have made children, teachers, whole schools and districts feel inferior — most falsely so since these narrowly focused, single-point-in-time tests cannot accurately judge the quality of education nor diagnose an underlying condition with any accuracy. It’s like taking a temperature, blood pressure reading, or monitoring thyroid levels; they can change simply based on the time of day.

So…..

Step 1 in the campaign: Facts on testing and No Child Left Behind are clear. Research and time has verified the truth.

I’ll never forget being in a meeting of the Idaho Assessment and Accountability Commission and hearing person-after-person get up and testify to the absurdity of the test-based (outcome-based) mechanism of “accountability” that was about to go forward. The words “we are headed for a train wreck” still echo in my mind. Well, we are there.

Step 2 in the campaign: Negotiations were attempted repeatedly at the local, state, and federal levels.

And throughout the years, multitudes of people scattered across the country, separated by distance, differing ideologies, political party affiliation, socioeconomic stature, race, and a whole host of issues including the divisive topic of how to “fix” schools all continued trying to derail the standardization and privatization of our institution of public education.

“We realized that we were the victims of a broken promise.”…

“We did not move irresponsibly into direct action.”

Many made the determination that it was going to take a personal sacrifice of time and money to move forward. That is self-purification — acknowledging that personal sacrifices are needed for the sake of progress.

Step 3 in the campaign: Self-purification occurred knowingly and unknowingly as many of us gave our time, energy, and money to make the Save Our Schools March happen.

And that has led us to Step 4 in the campaign: Direct Action

So….

How will “opting out” work?

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.

It is the entrenched educational community; it is the dysfunctional community; it is the corrupted lawmaking communities that have refused to face facts, the issues, and the more logical solutions.

It is those “bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue” that have oppressed those wishing to move the efforts of education reform to focus on what is best for children and what child need us to do to ensure they have been provided with quality learning opportunities that fit their individual needs.

Martin Luther King saw others “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society” and knew it was morally wrong to turn away. We must face that same problem now.

We are left “with no other alternative.” The time is right for civil disobedient in the education reform arena. Test refusal is the tool.

No Child Left Behind Accountability: A Joke

At the signing ceremony for No Child Left Behind (NCLB), President Bush joked, “I don’t intend to read it all.” But he was sure that in NCLB we would “find that it contains some very important principles that will help guide our public school system for the next decades. First principle is accountability.”

The signing of America's first federal education accountability law - No Child Left Behind.

The signing of America’s FIRST federal education “accountability” law – No Child Left Behind.

President Bush didn’t read NCLB before signing it. (How about your representatives?) That’s joke number one. Funny, huh? But what is even more amusing — sarcastically speaking— is trying to find where the word “accountability” was defined in the law. In laws and policies, key words are often defined so as to leave no doubt about the laws’ intentions. I word searched the desk copy and original. Didn’t find “accountability” defined. I could have missed it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.

Is the country in this accountable state of being? Definition: Merriam-Webster.com

Is the country in this accountable state of being?
Definition: Merriam-Webster.com

NCLB says it will provide “greater” accountability; it will “increase” the accountability. How exactly this increase would occur based on the dictates of the law was always left to people’s imaginations and driven by emotions because, by God, we want someone “held” accountable for low school “performance.” And the country was led to believe that standardized tests for math and language arts would determine school quality— accurately. That fallacy would be joke number two.

As Bush declared a decade later, “it’s time to celebrate success [mission accomplished, eh?], but it’s also a time to fight off those who would weaken standards or accountability. I don’t think you can solve a problem if you can’t diagnose it.”

Standardized achievement tests don’t “diagnose” problems. They are only one indicator and because of their “nature,” yearly-standardized achievement testing is unnecessary.

It’s like taking an animals temperature and finding they have a fever. Yes, they have a fever but the thermometer reading doesn’t diagnose the problem.

New standardized tests, even so-called “better” tests, only give us information about a school at one moment in time with their given population — a snapshot. That snapshot changes slowly (unless you teach directly to the test). The most consistent finding (over at least five decades) is that standardized test results most strongly correlate to socioeconomic status (schools already have that personal data). More students from low-income families score lower on standardized tests— partially because of the nature of standardized tests.

I once attended a conference where one of the breakout discussions was led by a teacher from a neighboring community with a high-poverty, high-migrant worker population. Over the years, she had made the correlation that her students whose parents only spoke Spanish in the household would (on the average) score 20 percentage points lower on standardized tests.

Some could argue that this demonstrates the value of testing but the reality is, she knew this without the tests. And she didn’t need to keep proving it. She knew her students, knew their family’s background, observed the phenomenon, and test scores made no difference in how she went about teaching. The community situation was out of her control because of the lack of local authority to act on what WAS diagnosed as a problem.

She knew she had to do everything she could to properly educate her students. I know that from what the breakout was really about, how to teach English Language Learners. The test score discussion was an aside. Assessments and interventions designed to help students must take place in the classroom.

So, truth is, test results don’t necessarily give us a diagnosis. And certainly, as we know by now, accountability for math and language arts instruction alone does not make for a well-rounded education. The joke has been on us.

How many of these types of jokes will we take before we quit being amused?

Former President Bush went on to tell us that “people like [former school superintendents] Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, people who are willing to challenge the status quo, tell you that one thing that made it [NCLB] effective was the accountability.”

Whoa! Klein – former chancellor of N.Y. city schools – and Rhee – former chancellor of D.C. schools – say NCLB accountability made their schools “effective.” We had better ask them to define THAT word. And ask this dynamic duo why they were so central to developing new standards (Common Core) and tests while turning their backs on other needs in their communities. In 2009, were their school districts adequately funded? By what measure did they make that call? Where’s the accounting? If their schools were so effective, why did they push their Smart Options agenda in 2009?

Genuine accountability for educating America’s children is both a shared responsibility and a national necessity because the public has and is demanding it. The only rational way to satisfy the People’s demand is to make it right by using what we know.

No Child Left Behind yearly mandate for nation-wide testing of math and language arts for the purported purpose of “accountability” misled the nation. (That requirement is unchanged in the NCLB replacement called the Every Student Succeeds Act that was signed into law on 12/10/15.)

No Child Left Behind “accountability” was a cruel joke. There is a better way.

Accountability Where It Matters Most

Shouldn’t we be accountable for providing quality learning opportunities to all children? Shouldn’t we be asking for accountability where it matters most? Aren’t we – the public – responsible for doing that?

The National Science Teachers Association “believes that individuals are accountable first to those directly affected by their actions and second to all other interested parties. Thus science teachers are accountable primarily to students and parents.

With the promise to finally “fix” No Child Left Behind, we really need to think this through.

How do we know students are learning what they need to know and be able to do?

Tests, assessments, measures of student achievement and performance…we measure students in multiple ways yet we should have figured out by now that higher scores on standardized tests do not equate to the quality of learning. That’s where the public needs to understand that it is “systemic” accountability we want and there are many layers!

In a perfect system, the teacher is a highly educated and trained individual, the teaching environment is healthy, safe, and conductive to learning, the objectives are clear, the teacher has all the materials to do the job, and the students are prepared to learn.

Assessing the student becomes simple. There are student-learning objectives that the 4c7866fd6a1029fa8037bad0e1e29877teacher evaluates the student against – called “formative” testing. Teachers use the information to assess what the student did or did not learn and adjust instruction to meet the needs of the student – becoming “accountable” to the student – being responsible for doing their job.

Other measures depend on the grade level and intended use. There are end-of-course exams that many of us probably recall as being “final” exams – called “summative” assessments. And there are other standardized achievement tests that can be used to assess trends.

So, at the student level isn’t it enough to have…

♦Teacher-created formative assessments of standards-aligned student learning objectives,

♦End-of-course exams, subject specific tests, or school or district summative assessments as necessary to address any problem areas identified, and

♦Standardized achievement tests given at transition points (grade-span testing, 4th, 8th, 12th grades) as an oversight?

At the student level, if parents are comfortable with this amount of assessment of their child and have confidence in their teacher’s ability to judge their student, is it fair or even reasonable for the public to demand more testing of students? The views of students and parents should matter.

What Are We Missing?

Leaders, Civil Rights Leaders, People, what are we missing? And how is it we don’t seem to understand that “narrowing the curriculum” translates to lost opportunities to learn particularly in impoverished communities — the ones targeted by the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/NCLB)—the very reason for the existence of federal education law?

equal-right-quotes-5

Here are some facts that seem to be missing in the discussion of yearly standardized testing as it applies to reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (ESEA):

The original ESEA set this goal.

Quality and Opportunity were the twin goals desired in federal education law as stated by President Kennedy.

Quality and Opportunity were the twin goals first stated by President Kennedy.

The only “accountability” and testing associated with this law was this:

"Appropriate" was to be determined by focusing on what children need to learn.

“Appropriate” was to be determined by focusing on what children need to learn and staying focused on the “educationally-deprived” children.

Measurements of progress were used to assess effectiveness of federal dollars in meeting children’s learning needs. As one citizen recently expressed to me, these were state and locally created “measures.” …But back to the past,… in 1966, the first review of ESEA was released.

This council was required by the 1965 ESEA to advise the president and congress.

Yearly, the council was required to advise the president and congress. This council  focused strictly on the children the law intended to help and advised we do the same.

This assessment of the problem led their thoughts on standardized testing.

This assessment of the problem by this council highlighted their thoughts on standardized testing.

This council understood that these children were coming to school already “disadvantaged” when it came to standardized test scores. Out-of-school factors played a role.

In other words, commercially-designed standardized "achievement" tests point at opportunity to learn gaps.

In other words, commercially designed standardized “achievement” tests point at opportunity-to-learn gaps.

A point made in The Coleman Report that is really what makes the difference between great schools and mediocre.

Important to think about: the report was really titled “Equality of Educational Opportunity.”

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Variation within a school is greater than between schools. We have to think about children from low-income families as children with fewer opportunities – unless their community provides them more.

Also in 1966, the Coleman Report said that family background and socioeconomic factors play a role in “achievement” – but it was interpreted to mean that “school resources” don’t matter.

However…….a point made in The Coleman Report that really is what makes the difference between great schools and mediocre ones is the concentration of poverty….if not properly addressed.

Fortunately, the 1965 ESEA was designed taking into consideration both in-school and out-of-school factors and later research by James S. Coleman would prove that an out-of-school safety net of opportunities (social capital) was a factor behind the success of the private Catholic schools that he studied. But as the story of testing goes….

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Analysis and intervention must be focused on student learning – in the school where variability between students is largest.

Convinced that all students can learn, Ronald Edmonds looked at schools that began seeing student success regardless of their high-poverty rates. He not only analyzed the common factors in these “effective” schools, he looked at what they did to improve.

Edmonds did not shy away from standards and testing but his bigger focus was on instruction and learning….in the school.

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Good-quality teacher-created tests focused on learning objectives in line with clear, locally acceptable standards should be considered as the alternative to yearly commercially-created standardized tests. Then, what gets taught gets tested.

So in light of the fact that the role of the federal government is to ensure our civil (citizens) right to equal access, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is one appropriate tool for assessing national or state achievement/opportunity gaps. We should not change something that has worked well as one indicator of our nations slow but steady progress.

Today, we must consider looking at the real core of the problem that national civil rights groups are having with the idea of giving up yearly standardized testing. We need to consider: when the biggest variable is within a school, when success is really defined by individual student success, student success can only be measured at the school level. The “accountability” measure must be determined by parents, teachers, and communities. Monitored by NAEP to assess inequality, yes. But any further national testing for this reason is not justified and is an overstep.

In federal program evaluations to satisfy “accountability” for dollars, the same data (measures, assessments, indicators) that are used to identify a problem should be used to determine whether the problem has been reduced or eliminated.

And one last lesson from the past that we may have missed, from No Child Left Behind, was that yearly standardized testing narrowed the curriculum to what was tested – it did harm – and instructional time was lost because of test preparation. Limiting learning opportunities in schools is most devastating for children whose parents can’t make up for those lost opportunities. I know this because I saw it with my own eyes.

I hope in the weeks to come that a set of meaningful indicators of educational quality and opportunity come out of the legislative debate on ESEA reauthorization. Yearly standardized achievement tests for all students should not be among them. 

Education Counts. Let's measure what matters.

Education Counts. Let’s measure what matters.

#TruthBeTold The civil rights movement marched on a different path to obtain equality in educational opportunity.

Federal oversight of access is one thing, doing what is right for children is another.

Federal oversight of access is one thing, doing what is right for children is another.

Congressional representatives, particularly those charged with re-writing NCLB, do you understand?

We are at a crossroads where the standards movement that has dominated education policy since the 80’s intersects with the almost forgotten educational history of the 60’s and 70’s that saw the natural progress of effective schools take root because the influential in education policy THEN understood poverty and saw a way that education law could remedy a longstanding injustice – unequal access to quality education.

It is a problem we can solve.

Again.

Again.

Outcome-Based Education Reform

“For 30 years, this country has been slowly seduced and become intoxicated by one reform strategy with an ever-changing name — outcome-based education reform. In all too many classrooms, our focus on the ‘outcome’ has come at the expense of the process of educating children. Outcomes equated to test scores, and education became test preparation.”… That is from my first blog!

Outcome-based, standards-based, proficiency-based, mastery-based, performance-based, test-based — these and many others all describe basically the same process of using standards and the testing of “outcomes” for the foundation of a “system of instruction, assessment, grading, and reporting.”

Today, most people in the country do not understand what brought us to this point of such hot contention over the use of test scores.

Outcome-based education proponents and many parents believe that standardized tests are an “effective” measure of student achievement. But as any doctor can tell you, test results don’t always give you straightforward answers. All tests have strengths and weaknesses and must be interpreted with that in mind.

On the other side of the argument, fewer than 25 percent of Americans believe that the increased testing we have done over the last decade has helped the performance of their local public schools. A majority of the public rejects using standardized tests scores to evaluate teachers.

The philosophy upon which we reform education is crucial to have right.

It is crucial that the philosophy upon which we reform education is right.

What many do not understand is that people like myself that are against the outcome-based education reform theory are not against standards, against the proper use of standardized tests, or against accountability. I am opposed to doing anything in the name of systemic reform that will knowingly do harm to some of our students chances for success in life.

The evidence is clear. Experiments with the outcome-based theory in 1913, the late 1930’s, and officially since 2002, with No Child Left Behind, all came to the same conclusion; it narrowed the curriculum, it narrowed the curriculum, and it narrowed the curriculum.

McMurrer_FullReport_CurricAndInstruction_072407.pdf

McMurrer_FullReport_CurricAndInstruction_072407.pdf

In life, a “narrowed curriculum” translates into limited learning opportunities. Those most harmed by a narrow curriculum are children whose parents do not have much to offer in the way of educational opportunities in their homes and lives. Quality public schools are their fair shot at success – in theory.

A 2007 survey found “that nearly 75 percent of [civics and social studies] teachers, who say they are using news less often in the classroom, cite mandated standardized tests as the reason. They say that preparing for the tests takes time away from the classroom discussion of news.

In life, will that translate into disinterested adults who won’t be inclined to fulfill their civic duty?  Is this the outcome we want?

www.idahostatesman.com/2014/10/27/3452348/the-future-of-voting-in-idaho.html?sp=/99/106/128/

www.idahostatesman.com/2014/10/27/3452348/the-future-of-voting-in-idaho.html?sp=/99/106/128/

Why are we doing this?

We expect professionals to follow a high standard of practice. We have given authority to lawmakers to maintain educational oversight through policy making; should lawmakers not be held to a standard where they are expected to consider the evidence?

The National Research Council advice to lawmakers is that “the available evidence does not give strong support for the use of test-based incentives to improve education” … and recommends that “continued experimentation with test-based incentives should not displace investment in the development of other aspects of the education system that are important…”

Outcome-based education reform theory is the foundation of No Child Left Behind. Investment in testing went up, opportunity was limited, evidence was collected, and this experiment should officially be ended.

∞ ∞ ∞

UPDATE 2/17/16: No Child Left Behind was replaced with The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on 12/10/15. ESSA continues to have the outcome-based education reform theory as its foundation.

Who Cares?

A selling point my House representative makes to his throngs of followers is that he is “a protector of the people against the tyranny of their government.” So why hasn’t he lifted a finger, or even lent an ear, to fight against the tyranny of incessantly testing young children?

Why do we still have yearly testing mandated by federal law?

Did these tests improve education? The federal mandate began in 2001 with No Child Left Behind. Results?

If yearly testing is so important an ingredient in school improvement, why do we need it dictated by law? If these tests are so valuable and wonderful, won’t market forces be enough to drive their use?

I’m in Idaho. Our political leaders here strongly believe in the power of the free-market. They don’t believe the federal government should be involved in education. You would think they would be willing to fight to end the testing mandates of No Child Left Behind. You would think.

Listening to Idaho Representative Raul Labrador last night at his town hall meeting, I was struck by his words. He said he believes in keeping promises, in telling the truth, and how ignoring a constituent is never O.K.! REALLY?

I’ve been trying for three years to get this man to talk about education. My question this time was, if re-elected, would he work to end the federal mandate for yearly testing? He dodged it, again.

But the really, really sad thing about last night was the crowd. Big room, lots of people — a sea of gray hair indicating the Social Security/Medicare Generation (I’m not saying that begrudgingly. just sayin’). Young people were sparse.

I struck up a light conversation with the gentleman next to me before the show started. Afterwords, I asked him if he thought I had gotten an answer to my question. He quickly responded “No.”

But it was what this man said next that was my take-home message. He said, “I don’t know anything about No Child Left Behind and I don’t care.”

 

Rebutting Rhee

About the Rhee Opinion of the Opt-Out Movement: [NOTE: if you are not familiar with the Rhee agenda, 2012 critique from Idaho view provided here]CEMeQqMVIAEDorC

First, let’s clarify “standardized tests.” A standardized test is any form of test that (1) requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or a selection of questions from common bank of questions, in the same way, and that (2) is scored in a “standard” or consistent manner, which makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students. (From the Glossary of Education Reform – who knew?)

O.K., so then, I’m going to make an assumption that confusion has occurred.

I see standardized tests in two different lights. In many of my large classes in college, college professors wrote up multiple-choice tests (fill in the bubbles), which covered the material they taught or that they expected students to learn, and ran them through machines to score. Those are “standardized tests” by definition but I’d call them “internally developed.”

It is not really “standardized tests” that parents are objecting to; it is externally developed standardized tests that are being misused and their worth is being misrepresented to the public with scores being used for propaganda purposes.

Ms. Rhee is wrong in thinking that externally developed standardized test scores are “critical to improving public schools.” The only period of time during which this country was actually narrowing the achievement gap (judged by standardized tests pre yearly mandated) was the period when the original “Effective Schools Research” was done. External tests were not correlates of those schools. External tests did not improve those schools.

Ms. Rhee is wrong in thinking that “better” design of external tests will “measure how well our schools are teaching our children.” These tests cannot distinguish between a test prep curriculum and the one that is best for the individual student. They cannot accurately judge the quality of a whole school. Study James S. Coleman’s work more closely, Ms. Rhee.

Ms. Rhee is wrong to judge our nation’s education system based on international standardized tests scores. Should we monitor trends? Absolutely, but international standardized tests don’t tell the whole story of the American education system.

The Sandia National Laboratories exploration of education that provided “Perspectives on Education in America” (Journal of Educational Research May/June 1993) explained our seemingly poor international performance based on several “issues.” To really judge our U.S. students based on these tests, we would need to take into account many more factors than the average Jane or Joe “education think tanker” is going to do… So we shouldn’t be basing our decisions on these tests unless we are going to delve into differences in student tracking, curriculum timing, cultural differences, etc. The Sandia brain trust concluded, “…the utility of these assessments to educational improvement in the United States is negligible.” Ms. Rhee, read their work – these were some damned smart people!

So, in general, to continue on the path of test-based reform is barking up the wrong tree. Standardized tests are a monitoring device that we should use sparingly and with cautious interpretation; they should not be the foundation for education reform that they have become.

If the argument I present here gets a hearing, it is only because of the Opt-Out Movement ——- Move on! Let’s hear more!

 Slaves to the test?

Slaves to the test?

And halt the confusion. Ask for clarification from the bully pulpit. Sign the Ohanian White House petition.

(Update 10/8/14 —- The petition failed to get enough signatures. So, sadly, the need to end the federal role in yearly mandated high-stakes testing lives on through No Child Left Behind.)

(UPDATE AGAIN – As of 12/4/15, the yearly mandated high-stakes testing lives on through the Every Student Succeeds Act – NCLB 2.0)

At The Core

We ask for common sense to be used. We seek common ground. Most of us have a need to be part of a community; we search for commonality with someone.

The word “common” has a softly seductive appeal that brings to mind a sense of belonging as though we are sharing something of value.

Common Core National Standards?

Some of us can’t help but see patterns common to our still-fresh experience with state standards and No Child Left Behind. As standards were demanded as part of an accountability scheme, children were put in harms way in an unprecedented experiment in education reform.

If the child didn’t fit the standards and how they were being implemented, many parents and grandparents opted to teach the children how they knew better fit their needs. I know I did, as did others I know who hired tutors or entered their kids in “programs” to fill the gaps.

The standardized tests can never ferret out the effects of our actions giving the appearance that the standards “worked.”

There is no doubt that the practice of re-teaching or supplementing was done during the first thrusts of the test-based accountability experiment and it is being done again with The Core. As one anonymous parent put it, ” At times my son was very confused by what was going on – so I taught him myself. While the schools probably assume that his level of mastery is due to the teaching and books, the truth is far different. I am sure I am not the only case where parents supplement their kid’s education.” JRM (Huffington Post article Oct. 11)

How can we possible judge a system, a school, or a teacher based on this?

The sell job of outcome-based accountability was in the wording: want “better student outcomes,” “higher achievement,” to “leave no child behind,” like the idea of “accountability, flexibility, and choice”? …yes, yes, yes, yes.

Now, a return of some of what was taken away by Round One — critical thinking and writing through more project-based activities — is the commonsense carrot enticing us to swallow the whole Core National Curriculum.

Billed as “new” and “unique,” The Core is neither. Promising to bring “success” and make students “college and career ready,” it is more certain to sell new curriculum materials, new tests, and new remedial materials and programs when students “fail” the tests…and the pattern continues.

Parents, if you are “supplementing” your child’s education, your child in particular should be opted out of the testing. If this national experiment is to go forward, it should be based on an honest evaluation.

My own opinion — for what it is worth — at The Core of this issue is not our agreed need for some commonality of knowledge; at The Core is conformity.

Narrowing of the curriculum was no little glitch. Unintended in Round One; no doubt foreseeable in Round Two.

Narrowing of the curriculum was no little glitch. Unintended in Round One; no doubt foreseeable in Round Two.

“…conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” JFK

 

Where We Fail

As people, we fail when we react to words rather than trying to understand what is meant by them.

Sometimes it is good to start with a blank slate.

Sometimes it is good to start with a blank slate.

Business, political, educational, and civil rights leaders jumped on the idea that outcomes in the form of test scores were the way to go for education reform partially because the words made the idea sound good – “close the achievement gap.”

The idea was sold to the public, and many, many very intelligent people bought it. The end result was the federal testing law called No Child Left Behind.

Achievement, judged by standardized tests, is the basis of the “accountability” mechanism that has yet to hold the system itself accountable for the high cost and little results of the last eleven years—let alone the damage. “Flexibility” disappeared from classrooms whose children most needed it, and “choice” didn’t leave many options for improving all schools.

During this whole fiasco, we failed to keep an open mind that would allow us to accept the evidence and our mistakes. Denial is a human defense mechanism. But it is time for adults to put aside their own stance and do the right thing — admit that testing is not what improves schools.

Our education dollars, time, and efforts will be better spent developing an understanding of school improvement and what it will take to fulfill our obligation to provide equal access to quality education; setting excellence as the norm, understanding change, the importance of school culture in the change process, and how change can lead to improvement and lasting progress.

But who is asking us? Certainly not open-minded people ready to hear and accept solutions.

To all those who were wrong; do the honorable thing, accept your failure, and open your mind.

To all those wanting to help the effort to do the right thing for public school children, share this with someone outside your circle of like-minded associates. Start a conversation.

Test-Based Goals: Mission Accomplished?

What do we want? Don’t you generally hear ordinary citizens say, “I want my children to get a good education”? How many of we garden variety citizens say, “I want my kids to graduate from high school ready to score higher on standardized tests”?

If people don’t understand the proper uses of testing and can’t recognize the misuses of standardized achievement tests, then they can’t possibly know that the country has the wrong goal for public education — set in law and in the minds of Americans.

The “achievement gap” is defined by standardized achievement tests. It can serve as one monitor of equal opportunity. It should not be THE goal of the public education system — but IT IS!

“To close the achievement gap” is a test-based goal set by No Child Left Behind. In Idaho, our state school officer, Mr. Luna, points out that “…results not only show a majority of Idaho schools are high-performing, but also that a vast majority of students are performing at or above grade level in reading and mathematics…While I praise these results, I also know the reality behind this data: Though students are performing better than ever in K-12, they continue to struggle after high school.”

Source: Associated Press

Source: Associated Press

His conclusion is that the standards must be higher and the tests better but that is because he fails to see, or won’t admit, the flaw in the outcome-based (test-based) theory — it narrowed curriculum to what was tested and that isn’t good enough. It isn’t good education; it did meet the test-based goals.

Mission accomplished? – test scores up / students unprepared for life because of a narrowed, test-based curriculum!

UPDATE 5/4/15: The marketing of No Child Left Behind deliberately targeted the largest group we have failed to educate well – black Americans. Why would we continue with this failed outcome-based theory of reform? Because we have been told?