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?

What Failed?

A Mind is Too Beautiful to Waste

A Mind is Too Beautiful to Waste

The beliefs — test-based accountability, financial flexibility, and “choice” — the principles — the pillars upon which No Child Left Behind (NCLB) promised “to close the achievement gap” — have FAILED.

The theory was hailed by state education officialdom prior to NCLB. So all-in-all this grand experiment, concocted by those unwilling to listen to people in the trenches, had decades to “work” to “close the achievement gap.” It failed; it’s a FACT!

People across America are waking up to the reality that testing itself is wasting instructional time and our money. Parents are seeing that test-based accountability led to a narrow and boring curriculum for their children. It is one of the reasons many left the traditional public system to home-school.

Many are also using the “choice” part of this failed equation. But the reality is that “choice-based reform” has not led to reform. And it must be remembered that test-based accountability was used to declare schools as failed thus trumpeting the need for “choice” through a charter system. Failed and double failed!

But what of “flexibility”? Ah, that began as a token gesture of local control. Giving the local people the ability to spend Title I money (federal education dollars for low-income students) in a manner they saw fit was actually part of the original 1965 law. But back then it was understood that the money would be directed to serve the needs of those low-income students. When the states became convinced that test-based accountability was the way to go, the stage was set for federal dollars to be spent on this new focus. The public was duped and double duped.

It is time to view education differently – accountability, flexibility, and choice have failed to deliver on what it promised. And in the process, it did damage. Face that fact. Riding on accountability, flexibility, and choice as reform strategies is like riding a dead horse. Have a little respect. Dismount and bury it!