As a veterinarian, when I’m presented with a sick animal my first step in problem solving is a good history. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. For example, in a crisis I skip the history taking and go directly to doing what’s necessary to save a life.
The objective of a good history is to gain clarity as to what happened that may have contributed to or created the problem. A good history guides us in deciding the proper tests to run — always with the goal of making the correct diagnosis.
In education reform, we have been “reforming” at a steady clip for over 30 years. The patient —the public education system—has not been cured, has been given prescription after prescription all of which have made it appear clinically sicker, and the main diagnosis we are working off of is that the standards aren’t “high” enough plus we have now added that the tests aren’t good enough.
So let us go back to the time when a crisis was declared and the history of standardization of instruction, which had been tried in America in the early 1900’s and mid 1930’s, was skipped over in the process of making a diagnosis. Let’s pick up where we left off.
Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education reported that we were “A Nation at Risk” and ever since, the general public has believed that standards were both the problem and the solution. So we set our course of reforms on standards and testing.
We misdiagnosed both the problem and what that famous report said.
It is important that we know this because when we look at the patient today, the initial problems still exist but our misdiagnosis and the wrong cocktail of prescriptions have made the system worse.
Now, the country is addicted to the treatment; dependent on tests to tell us how the patient is doing versus looking at the patient itself. We are monitoring our system into destruction.
A wise old vet school professor once advised,
“if you see a patient back three times for the same thing, you need to get a new set of eyes on the problem. You’re missing something.”
Well, it turns out that another set of eyes was put on the problem and their diagnosis was quite different. The Sandia National Laboratories gave good explanations concerning both the interpretation of test scores and the proposed (now in action) “reforms.”
Some powerful somebodies silenced the report
#TruthBeTold ? Only if we demand it.
My prescription to revive the dying patient is this:
- Demand Congress remove the No Child Left Behind (now called the Every Student Succeeds Act – 2015) federal mandate for yearly standardized testing and replace it with checks on the system at 4th,8th, and 12th grades only in addition to the random use of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
- Reopen the wound of national standards. Air it out. Is it what we want or do we want national guidelines (benchmarks) around which we tailor standards to fit our needs? That discussion needs to happen in the open.
- Let’s get new eyes on this issue and start with a full and truthful history. If there is a good reason that the Sandia findings should not be heard, let’s hear it.