The Graphic Truth About Our Education System

Please, take a good look at the graphic truth about public education in America.

National leaders and much of the media repeatedly call the system “failed.” That is their version of the graphic truth. They point to test scores as “evidence.” President Trump described the institution as an …

“education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

That’s disturbing. Also disturbing is this reporters response to Trump’s “facts” in Trump’s vision of education begins and ends with schools being bad.

“… it’s true that the United States spends quite a bit, relatively speaking, on education, and test results are fairly disappointing.”

But let’s dig deeper into the Trump/DeVos “facts.”

Look closer at the Graphic Truth About Spending and OutcomesTotal costs DID rise dramatically. So did employees. But why? Blame the teacher’s union? Not so fast.Look closer at “The Other Half.”

“America now spends a greater percentage of its education funding on non-teachers than any other country in the world besides Denmark.” CBS News

And the Graphic Truth About Our Education “Outcomes”?

In the news article previously referenced, the reporter states that…

“…tests that try to measure how American students stack up to their peers show that the US is far from No. 1. On the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). … American 15-year-olds scored as average in science and reading and were below average in math.”

Below average in math is what makes the headlines. But to this reporter’s credit, she also stated that…

Another test with different methodology found American students fared better but still scored below Singapore, Japan, Korea, and Russia.”

That other “test” she referred to is TIMSS (Trends in Math and Science Study). It is a study with test results being ONLY one portion of the study —the only portion that makes the news. How about progress on our own national test (NAEP – National Assessment of Educational Progress)?

We made huge progress — until we stalled.

And now, the public education system must defend itself against its current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who sees traditional public schools as “a dead end.” She, and our other political leaders, need to see the graphic truth about our national progress in a broader historic perspective.

Dead end? Hardly.

Ending illiteracy was a primary reason for developing the public education system. Progress was most definitely made …. until it wasn’t!

This graph was made to help justify No Child Left Behind. NOW, it should be used to demonstrate WHY NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND WAS SUCH A COSTLY FAILURE.

*The following is a MUST KNOW Small but Essential Piece of Education Reform History*

During the 60’s, the nation began making universal efforts (through the force of law) to offer educational opportunity to ALL of America’s children.

To help monitor our progress towards that goal, NAEP was designed to provide a randomized sample of education-related information. NAEP provided statistics for researchers to monitor and help guide the nation’s schools towards equal access to quality education. It was not a tool for ENFORCING accountability where it matters most. Unfortunately, the scores have become a weapon.

So if you look back at the colored NAEP charts, you can see that the country was indeed showing MARKED improvement in basic reading and mathematics skills for groups of children that typically were being under-served (disadvantaged groups). And we were making this progress without detriment to the majority group. That was exactly what we wanted to be doing.

Given what was happening in schools and society at the time, a “flat-line” in the early years of NAEP was perfectly acceptable. But yes, we believe it isn’t good enough to remain educationally stagnant especially with such dramatically increasing costs. However, that is why the public needs to understand a bit more of the politics behind the statistics.

Where Congress Took A Wrong Turn

In 1976, Congress began the policy change FROM federal funding focused on meeting the needs of disadvantaged children TO funding achievement in “basic academic subjects.” That took the public’s focus off indicators of educational equity and quality and put it on the simplistic measure of higher test scores.

This was a WARNING!  September 1991: Education Counts: An Indicator System To Monitor the Nation’s Educational Health. … A Warning IGNORED.

By 1992, standards-based (outcome-focused) education had taken over the states. Education reform plans were “built solely around achievement tests.”

And it didn’t take long for the money-making predators in the education industry to see where profits were to be made. The public was told the restructuring of schools was for our own good — to remain economically competitive internationally. The reality: those selling “education products” benefited most. 

The quest for higher “scores” in basic subjects cost the nation in multiple ways.

Truth Be Told: Education is more than a score!Before the takeover of educational improvement by political and corporate leaders, we led the world in higher educational attainment.

This Graphic Truth was provided by Sandia National Researchers in 1991.

And after the federalization (NCLB) of Outcome-Based Education Reform???? Look at the graphic truth. From 2000 to 2016, we went FROM being second only to Canada (36% to their 40%) TO having four other countries surpass us.

We were TOLD we needed “higher standards” and they must be “benchmarked” internationally (Common Core).

Yet, we had cultivated educational excellence in our best and brightest —in this country— without common national standards.

This Graphic Truth is provided by Dr. David Berliner.

So why would we want to “benchmark” basic academic standards to these other countries? … ?

We are a productive people.

This Graphic Truth is provided by Dr. David Berliner.

And before No Child Left Behind (2001) and Common Core (2010) wreaked tyranny upon the local control of education, most PARENTS were satisfied with their local public schools.

Politicians and other leaders —with political and monetary agendas— disrupted our educational progress, upset parents and teachers, and decreased the quality of education for many children. They restructured our schools into a standardized, outcome-focused gutted version of what was a great system.

That is what we have allowed.

A Call To Action is Overdue

If this country now wishes to stop the destruction of public schools, we have to take action. The current leadership has no intention of preserving and improving public schools.

“Options” are taking away money … harming the children left behind. Photo credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP Source: Clarion Ledger

To save this system from the current destructive forces of federal law and those administering their wrath upon this nation’s public schools, a wide-reaching Congressional Oversight Hearing concerning the actions of Secretary DeVos are warranted and necessary as a first step.

Then Congress needs to go back to the drawing board on federal education law and MAKE IT RIGHT this time. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) did not fix what was wrong with No Child Left Behind.

Zombie Ideas Are Killing Public Education

“Zombie ideas … are policy ideas that keep being killed by evidence, but nonetheless shamble relentlessly forward, essentially because they suit a political agenda.” Paul Krugman

Zombie Ideas!?!

Exactly! … Policymakers have been using zombie ideas to dismantle, transform, and restructure the public education system. But there is a mountain of evidence that the zombie ideas in No Child Left Behind didn’t show any appreciable improvement in student achievement. So why not end the zombie invasion killing our public schools, now?

Zombie ideas are hard to kill because they have already been killed by evidence! Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec

What Zombie Ideas?

The test-based, metric-driven accountability of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law is based on a political agenda, not proven education reforms. Now, NCLB is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) but the same policy ideas and political agenda remain in place. The same detrimental consequences persist because the aim and purpose of the law did not change.

Zombie Ideas in Education: High-Stakes Testing and Graduation Policies*

Solórzano (2008) found that the results of high-stakes tests used as a high school diploma requirement “show quite clearly that Blacks and Latinos (and English Language Learners) are disproportionately failing them, whether enrolled in Texas, New York, California, or Minnesota” (p. 312).

He goes on to say that students who do poorly on these exams “are viewed as the problem; they are retained, tracked, or denied graduation” (p. 316) and cites several sources for this statement.

Then, comes the most logical and obvious, yet often negated fact of this matter: “They are held solely responsible for their grades, when in fact, they may not have had equal chance of learning because of the unequal resources and opportunities at their disposal at their school site” (p. 316).

The policy of high-stakes testing that has led to multiple incorrect, unethical, and detrimental uses of test results is just one example of a zombie idea that needs to die —permanently.

Other Zombie Ideas That Just Won’t Die!

Choice and competition are market-based ideas whose theories have been applied to public education to transform and restructure our public system into a privatized system. So based on the idea of school choice as a reform, researchers** examined student achievement under this Market Theory  — with the demand side being “school choosers” and the supply side being schools. They did so while also cautioning that psychologists are well aware of the effect of “choice.”

Theory On the Demand Side:

“The simple act of choosing a school then might contribute to a family’s satisfaction with that school.”

Theory On the Supply Side:

“Decentralized decision-making itself might be beneficial to students. … This local control could lead to more efficient, locally appropriate use of resources, better alignment and camaraderie among the school personnel, and improved responsiveness to opportunities and challenges.”

But Overall:

“While there are isolated (and sometimes very impressive) success stories, school choice reforms have not proven to be unambiguously effective on the whole.”

Charter or Voucher: It Doesn’t Matter

“Much like the charter school literature, the literature on private school vouchers does not conclusively link the use of vouchers to improved academic performance.”

Existing Public Schools are Forced to Compete: True

“While most principals report competing for students, few report that they compete by making curricular or instructional changes that might appeal to parents. Instead, they are considerably more likely to report competing through outreach and advertisement.”

Choice and competition are zombie ideas that increase return on investment to the education industry — and the cottage industries of marketing, data analysis, and advertising. School choice is not a systemic reform. It is a market theory that doesn’t tackle the solutions we should focus on — those that strengthen and improve educational quality and opportunity FOR ALL CHILDREN.

Rising from the Depths of the Swamp: More Zombies or Real Reform?

While the political agenda behind the zombie ideas focuses the nation’s attention on “outputs,” the idea of focusing reforms on “inputs” keeps getting buried alive. Even though it is logical and obvious that learning requires specific inputs, that poorer communities have fewer resources, and that the schools that struggle to provide better education are located in areas of concentrated poverty — our laws remain fixed on Outcome-Based (output) Theory.

While federal and state lawmakers continually mandate higher learning standards, “service delivery standards” remain buried in history.

Yes, it is true. Once upon a time America saw educating its youth as a public service. We were going to set a quality standard for delivering that service. While we still hear the phrase “Opportunity-to-Learn Standards,” those pushing their political agenda to privatize the system kill that conversation. Their actions say they don’t care about all the nation’s children. If those in power really cared, they would have pushed for “service delivery standards” to support local school improvements.

Instead of bad policy ideas being killed by evidence, those with a political agenda are killing the public education system.

Zombies are hard to kill because they are already dead. But it seems to be common knowledge that to kill a zombie you must destroy its brain.

These zombie reform ideas —high-stakes testing, metric-driven centralized accountability, competition through charters and vouchers — don’t die because they serve a political agenda. It is the “brains of the operation” that we must expose and politically destroy.

Sources:
*Kern, Diane. Zombie Ideas in Education: High-Stakes Testing and Graduation Policies. New England Reading Association Journal 49.1(2013): 96.

**Loeb, S., Valant, J., Kasman, M., Increasing Choice in the Market for Schools: Recent Reforms and their Effects on Student Achievement. Forum on the Education Reform in an Era of Fiscal Imbalance. National Tax Journal, March 2011, 64 (1), 141–164.

We Set Our Course On The Wrong Destination

The Declaration of Independence is seen as our nation’s promise. It contains guiding principles upon which our nation was built. Its words invoked a vision, a place to be created, a destination. Because of it, America became the “separate and equal” sovereign nation it set out to be.

By 1954, it was decided that when it came to public schools “separate but unequal” was our reality. A socioeconomic and racial inequality in America was acknowledged. That fact alone was justification for the writing of federal education law in 1965. And we set our course of action on offering equal access. However, desegregation —a forced attempt to offer that access—overshadowed full implementation of the law.

But equal access alone was never enough; the American standard is one of quality.

So as 1983 rolled around, the National Commission on Excellence in Education openly questioned the quality of our public secondary schools and made the call that we were A Nation at Risk based on eleven “indicators.” The majority of those measures were standardized test scores. The course was set. The destination was higher scores.

At that time, the commission’s analysis of statistics painted a bleak picture. And even though some of us still believe their recommendations were generally in the best interest of improving education, it is the commission’s “final” diagnosis of the quality of education in America that has been a topic of dispute in education circles for 35 years — with good reason.

A decade after the release of A Nation at Risk, researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories conducted their own study of elementary and secondary education. The only article about this investigation that the public has some access to is a summary titled “Perspectives on Education in America” (The Journal of Educational Research, Volume 86, Number 5, May/June 1993).

Sandia researchers did their own analysis of U.S. student’s performance on international and national test scores in addition to looking at “the education goals proposed by President [H.W.] Bush and the nation’s Governors.” They wrote that their analysis “focused on popular measures used to discuss the status of education in America.”

They found that in “nearly every” popular measure there was a “steady or slightly improving trend.” These researchers did not interpret this to mean that we don’t need to improve; they questioned the appropriateness of the popular measures, the difficulty of predicting the future educational needs of the country, and they found us “clearly deficient” on some measures they felt were appropriate.

So if left to their own devises, would the Sandia analysts choose different indicators of educational quality and achievement? The country did not ask.

Have our policymakers taken their findings into consideration? The country cannot possibly know.

This group of engineers — admittedly looking at education from an apolitical, outsiders’ view — summarized for us; the challenges we must face, the barriers that can impede educational improvement, and the conflicts they anticipated with the “reforms” being proposed.

Their findings should have been taken as cautionary. But the country did not hear them.The report was suppressed. The report, and the perplexing act of its contents being censored, failed to draw the attention of the media.

This lack of pertinent information has left us drifting along using “questionable measures.” And we lurched forward with full sails into the gusty winds of conflicting reform theories while anchoring them firmly in law — without good reason.

Any comparisons of U.S. scores on international tests should be seen as irrelevant in discussions of reform until the faults in those comparisons are clearly explained to the public.

What there should be no doubt about is that Gerald Bracey was correct in his observation that 20 years after A Nation at Risk, “The various special interest groups in education need[ed] another treatise to rally round. And now they have one. It’s called No Child Left Behind. It’s a weapon of mass destruction, and the target is the public school system. Today, our public schools are truly at risk.”

Now we know the destination set for the nation is privatization of our public schools.

Today, to effectively use history as a guide, we need the unfiltered insight of some of our best and brightest minds. We need the truth.

As the Sandia report quoted Clark Kerr, then President Emeritus of the University of California:

“Seldom in the course of policymaking in the U.S. have so many firm convictions held by so many been based on so little convincing proof.”

And that is now sadly true of the nation as a whole. We set course towards an illusion that raising test scores would produce “excellence.”

Good decisions are based on observation and evidence.

When information is withheld, we are more inclined to choose a course of action that takes us in the wrong direction. And the destination set for us appears to not be the one the American people desire.

Once upon a time, we were on course “To strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools.” We are now running full speed ahead towards the alluring but deceptive goal of better test scores.

It is time to write a better passage in this reform saga by starting with the long ago expired and fault-ridden federal education law inappropriately named “No Child Left Behind” and now called the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” To do so responsibly requires we have a true assessment of our education system.

If this country’s leaders sincerely believe in excellent education for all, they will bring the missing Sandia Report up from the depths and welcome re-analysis of both it and A Nation at Risk. Our course in education reform, and our monitoring of it, depends on wise and informed decision-making. Our republic requires it.

(P.S. A version of this blog was originally posted on TruthOut in 2014.)

35 Years Adrift on an Ocean of Reforms

A Nation at Risk began as a commissioned report to define problems in America’s schools. It became known more for the longstanding political debates that developed. But did this single report produce the ocean of reforms that now threaten to destroy our public schools? Was it the report that forced us to set our course on national standards and testing? Or did a few choice words, and powerful people, set us drifting on the ocean of reforms that are now eroding the educational foundation of America?

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

Like or loathe them, those words from A Nation at Risk live on in education reform infamy.

MormonWiki Secretary of Education Terrel Bell with President Reagan

As President Reagan explained, he and his Secretary of Education T. H. Bell “agreed that it was imperative to assemble a panel of America’s leading educators, an assembly of such eminence that the Nation would listen to its findings.” So when the nation did listen, it was Ronald Reagan, not the experts, we heard say, “…our educational system is in the grip of a crisis caused by low standards…” The words grabbed and held the nation’s schools hostage.

The New York Times reported that we were…

“being threatened by lax standards and misguided priorities in the schools” and that “the commission said low educational standards constitute a serious problem.”

If members of the National Commission on Excellence in Education did speak those words in 1983, they did not choose to write them in the official report!

What the report really said about high school and college standards was this:

“We should expect schools to have genuinely high standards rather than minimum ones, and parents to support and encourage their children to make the most of their talents and abilities.”…

“…we find that for too many people education means doing the minimum work necessary for the moment, then coasting through life on what may have been learned in its first quarter. But this should not surprise us because we tend to express our educational standards and expectations largely in terms of ‘minimum requirements.’” …

“In some colleges maintaining enrollment is of greater day-to-day concern than maintaining rigorous academic standards.”

And their advice for setting standards for high schools and higher education:

“We recommend that schools, colleges, and universities adopt more rigorous and measurable standards, and higher expectations, for academic performance and student conduct, and that 4-year colleges and universities raise their requirements for admission. This will help students do their best educationally with challenging materials in an environment that supports learning and authentic accomplishment.”

In addition,

“Persons preparing to teach should be required to meet high educational standards, to demonstrate an aptitude for teaching, and to demonstrate competence in an academic discipline. Colleges and universities offering teacher preparation programs should be judged by how well their graduates meet these criteria.”

What A Nation at Risk Did NOT Say

You can read, reread, and word search the document and you will not find a recommendation that we set K through 12 academic standards at a level that all students will meet. Instead, we were urged to NOT see standards as the goal but instead set the expectation for students that they will do their personal best to push themselves to the limit of their talents and continue through life as life-long learners.

In A Nation at Risk, you will NOT find “standards” being held up as either the silver bullet nor the major problem despite what foes and fans alike —and the public—have been led to believe.

Look closely at the actual recommendations for standardized testing.

The commission wrote:

“Four-year colleges and universities should raise their admissions requirements and advise all potential applicants of the standards for admission in terms of specific courses required, performance in these areas, and levels of achievement on standardized achievement tests in each of the five Basics and, where applicable, foreign languages.

Standardized tests of achievement (not to be confused with aptitude tests) should be administered at major transition points from one level of schooling to another and particularly from high school to college or work. The purposes of these tests would be to: (a) certify the student’s credentials; (b) identify the need for remedial intervention; and (c) identify the opportunity for advanced or accelerated work. The tests should be administered as part of a nationwide (but not Federal) system of State and local standardized tests. This system should include other diagnostic procedures that assist teachers and students to evaluate student progress.”

This one recommendation — that standardized tests of achievement be administered only at major transition points — should have replaced the yearly testing mandated in No Child Left Behind (NCLB). But yearly standardized testing remained in NCLB’s replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Thus, accountability based on testing remains a senseless detriment to educational progress.

The Truth

It was never A Nation at Risk that led the standards, testing, and accountability movement. As Valerie Strauss recalled, it was “Reagan’s second education secretary, William (Bill) Bennett, [who] continued to pursue a policy that focused on standardized testing.”

US Secy. of Education William J. Bennett (L) standing with Pres. Ronald W. Reagan during ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Influential people set this nation adrift on the faulty belief that somehow raising the bar with different standards and more testing would float all boats and stem the “tide of mediocrity.” It didn’t float all boats; it sank a whole lot of dreams.

The political focus on standards and testing drowned the discuss on the more important topic of expectations.

Getting Back On Course: We Need A Real Wake-Up Call

Think about it; thirty-five years of having political leaders telling the public, parents and educators that standards and testing improves schools is long enough. No, it’s too long! It obviously did nothing but create conflict, narrow the goals of education, and put money in the pockets of education corporations rather than in classrooms.

Let’s get back on course. Start by simply asking congressional candidates and representatives to pledge to remove the yearly testing mandate from federal K-12 education law (the Every Student Succeeds Act). It’s up to us to end this testing nonsense.

As A Nation at Risk affirmed,

It is by our willingness to take up the challenge, and our resolve to see it through, that America’s place in the world will be either secured or forfeited.”

#####

P.S. This blog originally appeared as an article in TruthOut (9/19/14) BEFORE No Child Left Behind was renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The name was changed; the need to fix it was not. The process to FIX ESSA should begin next year.

In Pursuit of Truth: How to Stop Dismantling the Public Schools

“Dismantling the public schools is all about control.” Lynn Parramore

In “The Corporate Plan to Groom U.S. Kids for Servitude by Wiping Out Public Schools,” Ms. Parramore explains the strategy the One Percent is using to produce a dual economy (haves and have-nots) and how the process of dismantling the public schools aides this agenda. Based on research from Gordon Lafer and Peter Temin, the article is a must-read for all citizens — before it’s too late to reverse “the new system.”

“Lafer explains that in the new system, the children of the wealthy will be taught a broad, rich curriculum in small classes led by experienced teachers. The kind of thing everybody wants for kids. But the majority of America’s children will be consigned to a narrow curriculum delivered in large classes by inexperienced staff —or through digital platforms with no teachers at all.”

This new digital delivery system is being called “Personalized Learning.” It’s also sold as Competency-Based, Mastery-Based, Proficiency-Based, Outcome-Based, and “Standards-Based” education. To be clear, none of this is proven education reform. That alone is reason enough to stop dismantling the public schools under the guise of reforms or “modernization,” which is code for privatization.

Standards-based reform policies, like No Child Left Behind, have already narrowed the curriculum. Decades of focusing on outcomes without the necessary inputs has left us with large classes, driven out experienced teachers, and put alternative certifications in federal and state laws to solve a problem created by lawmakers. None of this is theory or conspiracy. It’s the reality produced by our politically motivated policies.

And this is where we are:

It remains to be seen if the rights of the many can triumph over the selfishness of the few, and whether economic servitude will be the fate of the children of the wealthiest and most powerful country the world has ever seen.” Parramore

Here is part of the story behind the dismantling of public schools:

“After five years of research and the publication of The One Percent Solution, Lafer concluded that by lobbying to make changes like increasing class sizes, pushing for online instruction, lowering accreditation requirements for teachers, replacing public schools with privately-run charters, getting rid of publicly elected school boards and a host of other tactics, Big Business was aiming to dismantle public education.”

Dismantling the public schools required a coordinated effort.

A “host of other tactics” included using the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, instilling longitudinal data systems, coercing use of the Common Core Curriculum, giving priority to workforce data “interoperability,” and anchoring in place the false assumptions of No Child Left Behind in its replacement — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

We were told that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money would be used to restore operating funds for schools due to state budget cuts during The Great Recession.

Did states recover and reinvest in education? According to this 2014 report, 30 out of the 47 state budgets analyzed DID NOT.

“The lack in funding is hurting not just students, but also the economy.”

“State Education Funding Lags Behind Pre-Recession Levels” Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

While ordinary Americans were struggling, so-called “reform” groups worked to put their “SMART OPTIONS” education agenda in place using Recovery Act funds. They controlled the setting of priorities.

The leaders of this agenda labeled the process “disruptive innovation.” They used us.

Instead of restoring education funding and hiring back laid off teachers, the majority of states spent money on adopting new standards and putting data collection infrastructure in place. Common Core was never about improving student achievement; it was about the common data points the system can collect. Common educational data makes possible the workforce data interoperability system. This system is designed to link student data from the Education Department (plus testing & online education data) to workforce data from the Labor Departments for development of the human capital to fill the directives (orders) placed by businesses and corporations.

And the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) not only continued the federal mandate for the yearly standardized testing first dictated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), it created a NEW Title IV grant with an attractive name, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (PLAW-114publ95 beginning p.168 of 392). Although this NEW federal education program has three stated purposes, technology definitely is a priority. (Here is a screen shot from Rise to the Challenge, a blog written in response to a 2015 comment about my views on ESSA.)

UPDATE: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 provides increased funds for education technology, and the Department of Education as a whole. “In a complete contradiction to the Trump administration’s proposal, not only did Congress keep Title IV, it doubled the amount allocated to $1.1 billion. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) originally authorized Title IV for $1.65 billion. ” —- So the tech industry got a little less than anticipated in our NEW federal grant program.

STOP the dismantling of public schools.

As one person wrote on Facebook:

“We let them divide us against each other. Because united they can’t control us. Divided they keep control and can continue to pillage the country.”

It’s been established that it’s all about control. So we need to take control.

ESSA has to go. It has been proven that school accountability from the federal level is a joke. It doesn’t work. It makes no sense because the 90 Plus Percent obviously have no control —yet—over congress and their corrupt lawmaking process. Federal law continues to be an excuse for State “controllers” of the dismantling. Therefore, ESSA remains a barrier to diminished local control of education.

Take actions to disrupt and dismantle the policies, processes, and practices the One Percent put in place to control the schools that are attended by the 90 Plus Percent….It’s not too late. It’s time the country followed our teachers’ lead.

In Pursuit of Truth: The Language of Political Conformity

Political conformity makes good people do things against their own better judgment. Consequently, political conformity is killing the very character of America.

“True conformity, according to many scholars, involves an actual ‘change of heart’…

[The] person believes the [group] norm in question is correct…. [It has been argued that] such internalization will only take place if informational influence has occurred” (p11). Source: Political Conformity: Evidence and Mechanisms

It is political conformity that has the country tearing down the foundation of our republic.

We once had a system where strengthening and improving schools was seen as reform. We now conform to a pretense of reform typified by an “accountability system” based on “competition.”

What’s Wrong With Competition?

There’s nothing wrong with competition when it comes to things like sports, card games, spelling bees, or debate teams. In the job market and in life in general, competition is an acceptable norm. That’s life!

But, is it reasonable to make competition the norm in ALL our schools?

Think about it. The competition for test scores is a competition to achieve. The ever-present thought of failure is creating stress in too many students, families, and teachers.

Think about the kids. Growing up is challenging. Additional — unnecessary — competition is putting our youth at risk.

2012: India has some of the world’s highest suicide rates. The Lancet Medical Journal says suicide rates are highest in the 15-29 age group, peaking in regions considered richer and more developed with better education, social welfare and health care.

[It’s] a new phenomenon experts said has happened recently as more middle-class youths strive to meet achievement expectations, and new technologies like cell phones and social networking sites help break down traditional family units once relied on for support.

2013: In the United States, “every year since 1999, more Americans have killed themselves than the year before…”

We are told, “Teenage depression and suicide are way up — and so is smartphone use.” We are told, “the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.”

We are told? NO! We need to challenge that assumption.

Too many questions have gone unanswered! In 2001 in an open forum, it was recommended that we monitor the suicide rate as we implemented test-based accountability. But the suggestion was seen as far-fetched.

So the pros and cons of competition in schools were not debated. And, we proceeded with the plan to transform the culture of our K-12 schools.

Competition became the norm because we complied with “No Child Left Behind.” It sounded good.

Political Doublespeak and Orwell’s Advice

In “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell ripped apart the political language of his time. Our time is no different from his.

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aim,…

Perhaps our time is worse. Words are for sale. And political leader’s insincerity is running rampant.

Wake up, People. Resist the language of political conformity.

“…one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.”

And with “Truth Decay” being a defined and researched entity, it’s time we stop and examine our own political bias and the conformity that blinds us from seeing the truth!

Orwell cautioned us about using “ready-made” phrases that “anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”

How many times have you heard the phrase a “more level playing field”? Have leaders sincerely worked hard towards “…the goal of improving education for all…”?

No! Instead, public “school choice” is packaged as “freedom,” while COMMON curriculum and testing is endemic. “Accountability” through standards and testing is a bad joke. And this is how we “change the status quo”?

No! The status quo is political conformity to a political “reform” agenda.

Orwell’s advice:

“…to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration…”

Thinking Clearly

In Orwell’s novel 1984, “’doublethink’ describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct.” This allowed leaders to use both beliefs to their advantage. It doesn’t seem like that could work, but it does.

Public opinion polls did, and continue to show, that the majority of parents with children in the public schools like both their teachers and their schools. Yet the public says the public schools are bad. GOOD IS BAD?

Education Reimagined? Not by the teachers and parents in your community.

And we decided that the whole K-12 system needed to be “restructured” and “transformed”? NO! “We” did not decide.

The education reform oligarchy decided. They decided  “reform” was “imperative.” The system is “antiquated,” a “factory model”; we need to “modernize.” They told us we aren’t “globally competitive.” And the “government schools” are a “monopoly.”

The hook was baited with the right political language, not with the truth. And without the truth, we can’t think clearly.

An Overview Of the Truth

You don’t need to have read 1984 to understand Orwell’s messages to us. His writings exist to help people see the truth and help us think clearly about the danger in letting the CONTROL of knowledge be concentrated in the hands of a few powerful people.

Historically, the norm used to be that parents and teachers worked toward education goals that were mutually acceptable. Then came corporate-elites CONTROL of education. We conformed to the new norm. Those leaders CONTROL the conversation and can flip it when they want.

We are told there is “a new play: empowering parents.” OLD IS NEW does seem Orwellian.

1984 [sounds the alarm] against the abusive nature of authoritarian governments, …[analyzes] the psychology of power and the ways that manipulations of language and history can be used as mechanisms of CONTROL.”

The Party slogans in the novel 1984.

Set in a world governed by totalitarianism, overseen by Big Brother and controlled by The Party, three official slogans are used in 1984 to manipulate people’s thinking so their minds accept propaganda as truth.

The truth is, there are problems in need of reforming, but “reform” isn’t what happened. Reform was never the aim. CONTROL is the aim.

WAR IS PEACE

In Orwell’s fictitious country, Oceania, perpetual war was the norm. War kept the masses united against an enemy. … The parallel to today should not be ignored.

Repeatedly, we went to war in this country over education. The Reading Wars over phonics versus sight words probably began in the mid-1800’s! And it drags on and on.

Between the Reading and Math Wars we have been in a perpetual state of war dividing educators and parents while uniting the public against the “government schools” and the big bad teacher’s union.

We liked our schools and teachers; but we accepted vilifying both.

And now, 30 years after the corporate-political elites’ assault on K-12 public schools began, we have legitimate reasons to dislike the schools. They have been transformed, at the bidding of our leaders, by standardization and privatization.

The war against the K-12 system has weakened it and higher education is next in line.

If you support “the system” — the centuries-old highly successful U.S. institution of public education — the new Minister of Education, Betsy DeVos, says you are against what is good for children. You are the enemy. Your priority is wrong. You are against “educational freedom.”

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

Freedom is the American religion.” It’s written into the Constitution. It’s stamped into our DNA. It is the word of choice in the language of political conformity. It is THE BIGGEST political hook in the arsenal.

…”It’s about educational freedom! Freedom from Washington mandates. Freedom from centralized control. Freedom from a one-size-fits-all mentality. Freedom from ‘the system.’” Spoke the Minister of Education, Betsy DeVos

“The System”? The system of free public schools has been transformed into the Common Core System. All teaching, testing, and learning using technology is based on common curricular CONTENT. Where we once had common national goals — we now have common instructional CONTENT controlled by… ?… an algorithm …?… designed by …?… Who does CONTROL online CONTENT?

Where 30 years ago we did not have a one-size-fits all “industrial-model” school, we do now!But WE ARE TOLD that government-sponsored freedom of choice is good. And DeVos says she has “never heard it claimed that giving parents more options is bad…for the child.”

Freedom—the word—is the hook. Freedom isn’t really being offered.

A system based on competition for the new “educational freedom” makes families’ slaves to competing in a race for common education.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

As one person described this Party slogan, “Believe and never question!”

Ignorance of the truth gives strength to political deception.

When the Curtain of Deception Parted

While discussing higher education, Betsy DeVos let slip what the rulers see as the purpose of their education system — a “delivery system to meet modern work place needs.”We have obviously accepted that political language. But the idea that public education is nothing more than a corporate and military human capital development system?  … No! Not everyone agrees…Consider what folks have to say…

“A school system to provide workers for the wealthy? Not to educate!”

“The country’s higher education system is indeed in dire need of a facelift, but not the one she [Betsy DeVos] wants to give it. It needs a nip and tuck, not the removal of the entire nose.”

If we accept a managed economy, it requires a managed and tightly controlled education/labor system.

While the “small government” mantra is used, the education/labor development system is being completed.

To CONTROL the economic system in the United States requires controlling people. And that political thought sure doesn’t fit the ideal of the American Dream.

Regeneration Requires Reviving the Norm

Initiative, resourcefulness, and generosity are traditional American characteristics.

Possessing those traits, great educational leaders of the past set the foundation for a public education system to serve all. Now, in our public schools system —in our self-proclaimed Land of Opportunity — competition and a market-based mentality has replaced generosity as the norm.

But because the character of Americans as people is founded on independence and revolt, resistance to conformity is probable. And the historic writings of George Orwell do shine light on that fight. We have to be willing to look, and think. He told us where to start. Look for the truth.

“Truisms are true, hold on to that!”

#Resist #Revolt #Regenerate

In Pursuit of Truth: Bill Gates & Education Reform

Education reform leaders like Bill Gates have disrupted our public schools without considering how their plans disturb the education of children and upset the lives of families. Repeatedly, political and philanthropic leaders force change on our schools without any meaningful open exchange of ideas with parents and educators.

They are in control of education policy. Education policy controls how our public dollars are spent. How our money is spent does matter. Policy — coming down from above — matters. The education reform oligarchs driving their agenda into our laws are the ones ultimately governing our schools.

So it behooves us to look closer at Mr. Bill Gates’ perspective.

Bill Gates’ Views On Public Education Compared To My Perspective — As Just A Parent

Mr. Gates…

From what Mr. Gates said, he sees the philanthropic role as being “to shake things up” and fund pilot programs. He says he sees philanthropy as having a “super-narrow role” because the reality is that the public is footing most of the costs.

But what Gates sees as a primary role for philanthropists I saw, beginning in the mid to late 90’s, as a primary problem.

No one had clarified the concept of what exactly a “pilot program” meant.

In this case, the use of the word “pilot” means that children serve as a “trial unit for experimentation.” … The big question becomes: how many were set up for future failures because of pilots gone wrong? From Education’s Missing Ingredient: What Parents Can Tell Educators

The people piloting failed programs didn’t send in cleanup crews. There were no “Super Fund Site” signs going up at my neighborhood schools. But if a person thinks that little learning is actually going on in schools before they step in, they might consider any harm done as insignificant. That may be the case with Mr. Gates.

“K to 12 is partly about babysitting the kids so the parents can do other things.” Source: The Hill, 2010

Wow! Really!?! And I thought that educated mothers around the world wanted their children to get a good education. I believe that is the major reason parents send children to school.

Parents want their children to enter classrooms where the teachers are happy about doing their job and they are enabled to do it well. … Parents want to have a say in how and what their child is taught. From The Crucial Voice of the People: Education’s Missing Ingredient, 2nd edition

So how do we view the school improvement problem?

Bill Gates believes “The key problem is political will.”

What I believe can’t be so simply stated. I believe in “the political principle” as an ideal that politics has failed at miserably.

The political principle is the belief that when decisions are made affecting you or your possessions, you should have a role, a voice in the process of that decision-making. …

And time and again, politics has proven itself to be an irresponsible driver of educational progress.

That quote is based on statistical analysis of the rigor of standards and their lack of correlation to student achievement.

And while standards-driven, outcome-based education reform was not Bill Gates’ brainchild, he has become the political and financial driver of the movement. He believes “that stronger standards will help more students live up to their potential.”

For decades, the faith in setting standards as a reform is what politicians and much of the nation agreed to spend education reform dollars on — “ever – higher” standards and the tests to determine achievement outcomes. On this topic, I believe in the historical evidence uncovered through my own research and the facts provided by people a whole lot smarter than I.

But ignoring all that, federal and state policies cemented the idea that standards are the necessary first step in education reform without considering the historical and statistical evidence demonstrating that the standards/outcome-based theory is incorrect.

So when did Bill Gates jump into the education reform arena? Exactly? Well, that’s hard to pin down but what is important to know is that by 2006, Mr. Gates had become the most influential person in education reform policy in America.

What probably matters more is who influenced the influencer?

Here’s a brief look at a few major players…

  • 1986 National Governors Association (NGA) meeting, Chaired by then Governor Lamar Alexander, Marc Tucker (from Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy) made his case for “the necessary revolution in school policy” (p82)
  • 1989 Marc Tucker (National Center on Education and the Economy – NCEE) reached out to President H. W. Bush promoting the restructuring of schools, setting of national goals, and focusing on workforce training “To Secure Our Future: The Federal Role in Education.”
  • 1990 Tucker’s NCEE publication “America’s Choice” continued the push for benchmarked standards in order for the U.S.A. to remain competitive in the global economy. Marc Tucker clearly urged leaders to focus on output measures at the Task Force on Education Workshop chaired by then Governor Bill Clinton (Tucker minute 33:30).
  • 1992 Marc Tucker penned his infamous “Dear Hillary Letter” that became part of Congressional Record (p353) submitted by Representative Bob Schaffer in 1998. (Here is an easier to read copy.)

With political figures including Bill and Hillary Clinton on board with the Outcome-Based Education Reform Movement and then Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander cheering the first federal funding earmarked for World Class Standards/Academic Achievement Tests (p93), the federal role in education expanded.

  • 1996 The Education Summit brought together governors and business with education and community leaders. Their mission: To start a national effort to establish high academic standards, assessments, accountability and improve the use of school technology as a tool to reach high standards. As the story goes, this meeting gave birth to Achieve, Inc.
  • 1997 Lamar Alexander & Bill Gates address the NGA Lamar Alexander mused about how it could be that, after all the years of trying, with the governors “leading the charge” and pouring money into “their plan,” charters and standards had not improved education. Alexander’s answer: “We have been too timid.”
  • Bill Gates talked about “digital nervous systems” able to improve the quality and efficiency of public services and provide citizens with access to more knowledge in the “Information Age.”

Bill Gates Steps In — Officially

1999 Gates co-founds the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Among many other things, they provided funding for Achieve, Inc.

The Gates Foundation became a continuing financial supporter of Marc Tucker’s projects at NCEE.

2001President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law.

2005 Bill Gates co-chaired the National Education Summit on High Schools. Gates emphasizedthere is crisisour schools are obsolete—and a new design is required.

Influence & The Gates Foundation Agenda

One author put it this way…

The Gates agenda is an intellectual cousin of the Bush Administration’s 2002 No Child Left Behind law.

In 2006, with Bill Gates viewed as more influential in education policy that President Bush, the only two government institutions on equal footing with the Gates Foundation were the U.S. Department of Education and Congress…..NOW?

Some players have changed. Who governs is the question.

For Gates to amplify his philanthropic influence, all he needed to do was gain control of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. … With Marc Tucker as one collaborator, education leaders were trained and placed in the U.S. and many State Departments of Education.

Influencing Congress? It only requires the multiplication of think tanks, organizations and their lobbying efforts.

Now, if you look back at the video clip at the top of this blog (minute 3:18), Mr. Gates chuckles about philanthropy being “so big we could take” over.

  • 2006 The Data Quality Campaign Launched at the Data Summit — supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The campaign promoted their “ten essential elements” of a longitudinal data system, which included the ability to match student records between the Pre-K and post-secondary systems.
  • 2009 Bill Gates explained at the National Conference of State Legislatures that a thorough data collection system is the best way to track student success. And people, like Parkway, Ohio school board member, Ryan Thompson believe…

“It would be very hard to identify a particular student.”

You be the judge. The following screen shots come directly from documents about data collection and sharing pilot programs put in place simultaneously with Common Core Standards. 

SOURCE Department of Labor: It clearly states (middle of 2nd paragraph), “Ultimately, databases developed through WDQI should be linked to education data at the individual level.”

The years between 2009 and 2014, the Common Core years, created murky waters in the swamp.

Exactly when and how the Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) arose is probably a story for another time. What is important to know is that real concerns exist for all citizens, particularly for parents wanting to protect their children’s data.

Is the Department of Education addressing parent concerns? How about Congress?

The bill before Congress known as the “Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking” (FEPA, H.R.4174) was pushed through the House without debate. The foundation it puts in place is a mega federal database without mention of education data — but that is the plan. Next up will be the College Transparency Act (CTA) which overturns the ban on a federal student record system.

This is the Gates agenda. But go back and read the Dear Hillary Letter. This is the Marc Tucker plan. Is this America’s choice?

“It is not unfair to say that the Gates Foundation’s agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.” Michael Petrilli

To date, leaders have brushed citizen concerns aside and done what they want. That leaves me wondering; is it too late to regain control of schools through civil disobedience? Will that work against an oligarchy?

One thing is certain; our representatives are driving policy while under the influence.

“Smart Options” & the Revolving Door of Common Core

Remember The Great Recession? Did you know that, while Main Street was struggling to stay financially alive, there was a group meeting to determine the “smart options” for our schools? These people were smart all right…in looking out for their own self-interests.

Relatively few people knew about this meeting. So it’s understandable that most people did not see Common Core as the weapon of mass destruction that it is. In pursuit of the truth, please read on.

The following is a revised and updated version of a 2014 DailyKOS post. The original details more of the people involved in the plot to take advantage of a hurting nation. …  This is where the Smart Options saga began. … D.C.

How smart people kicked public schools when they were down.

Washington D.C. is known for its revolving door of political influence. Behind-closed-doors deals are the norm. That made it the perfect place for this group to hatch a blueprint for spending our American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) education dollars.

But when this meeting took place in April of 2009, few people were talking about how a common core of standards could be used against public school children. After all, WE were in The Great Recession. And THEY were not feeling our pain.

The fact is that education “reformers,” philanthropic organizations, venture capitalists, and politicians followed the dogma expressed by then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”… They didn’t.

And their plan was written up as Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success. The Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli & Edythe Broad Foundations sponsored the publication (among other things). The Gates influence over education policy is well-known while Eli Broad probably requires a bit of introduction for many.

Eli Broad made his billions mainly through real estate dealings and SunAmerica, which was sold and re-branded as AIG (yes, the same AIG that was too big to fail).

The Broad Foundation focuses on governance of schools, management training of leaders, and hands out generous “prizes” to charter management organizations.

Opportunity knocked; the Smart Options group answered.

Open the door on this one meeting and you will see how the country was purposely duped into financially supporting the education and technology INDUSTRIES ahead of schools.

Entered —the Core support team — the Coalition for Student Achievement, Aka College and Career-Ready America.

These Smart Options participants set the spending priorities and claimed that if states focused on their collection of “big ideas” the country would see “real educational results” by 2012.

Priority #1 “A common core of fewer, clearer, higher, evidence-based, college-and career-ready standards adopted by at least 40 states…”

Priority #2 “More robust and user-friendly data and information systems.”

Priority #3  “A meaningful professional teacher evaluation system in every state and school district.”

Priority #4By 2012, states and districts should have shut down at least 500 of these [low-performing] schools and replaced them with new, higher-performing schools…including charter schools.” — That is a quote.

Priority #5 “Targeted interventions provided to the students who are at least two years behind academically in reading, writing, and mathematics.”

Priority #1 became Common Core Standards even though the claims of being “evidence-based” were never substantiated. Priorities 2,3, and 4 caused chaos.

It wasn’t just one district that used Recovery funds “inappropriately.” The scenario across the country was money spent on standards, testing, and technology. The statement above is from the largest district in Eli Broad’s backyard, LA. Source: Recovery Act & Chaos.

What about the last priority, helping students?

Usually the devil is in the details. But with this, the specifics were few and the Recovery dollars didn’t materialize into the promised “results.” But, despite Bill Gate’s claim that Common Core failed, it didn’t. The core federal plan did work.

Instead of fully stabilizing funding for schools, the “smart option” became a “race to the top.” The collection of data and establishment of state longitudinal data systems became the core priority. And the core system is close to completion. … How?…

Look at who was at this table set for 40.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation had three foundation employees there. Additionally, there were seven other people who were either graduates of the Broad leadership training, or had a role in governing the Broad training center.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had four representatives directly from their parent organization. But seated at this table, just about everyone else had connections with Gates. Plus, among those many Gates’ associates were three groups essential to launching the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI, as Common Core was originally called):

P-20W is Preschool through Workforce.

Data Quality Campaign: They proudly state, “In 2009, 8 states used state funds to support their P–20W data systems. In 2013, despite difficult economic times, 41 states committed state funds to ensure the long-term sustainability.

Council of the Great City Schools: With outreach to 67 of the largest urban districts, they had  received a Gates grant to assist in implementing Common Core.

Student Achievement Partners (Aka Achieve the Core): The lead writers of the Common Core Standards, David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, and Jason Zimba, created this organization. David Coleman represented them at this meeting.

Common Core was central to the plot but a distraction from the bigger issue.

Now, the essential and basic question in need of answering is, after seeing how these people met and planned….

is this how we should govern the education of America’s children?

Let’s look closer at THEIR process for transforming OUR schools. Here are some of the other smart people AT THE TABLE.

KSA–Plus Communications, Inc. was present for their expertise in providing “education communications and strategic consulting to set education agendas in motion.”

McKinsey & Co. provides services including data analysis and transformation — boasting about having the ability to “drive adoption throughout the organization.”

Last but not least in the area of transformation was Alvarez & Marsal. They are known for “restructuring” and “turnaround” for companies including Enron and the failed Lehman Brothers. “Mavericks” on the ready “when conventional approaches are not enough to activate change,” they promise to “accelerate results through decisive action.”

But for these smart, self-interested dictators of reform to succeed, they needed to dictate education policy. — They needed to direct our public dollars by directing our laws.

So also in attendance was a representative from Education Counsel LLC with their “track record of forging the kind of partnerships needed to bring about meaningful and systemic change.”

In addition, there were two representatives from Education Sector (Aka American Institutes for Research – AIR), a D.C. non-profit education policy think tank. And as they state on their website;

“The reauthorization of ESEA (No Child Left Behind) is the nexus of all of our K-12 work, including testing, accountability, teacher quality, finance, data, and school choice.”

COMMON CORE STANDARDS provide COMMON DATA. They were never JUST standards. The Core was always about their SYSTEM.

And No Child Left Behind became the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as planned EXCEPT the name was supposed to be the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act.

Words have been changed but the core principles remain deeply embedded in FEDERAL law. Yet, the selling point for ESSA was the false claim of a return to state and local control. Or by the term “state” did Congress mean the Special Interest State?

Who governs our schools?

Did this system of exchange of COMMON student data evolve “IN A CLIMATE OF TRUST”? For “MUTUAL BENEFITS”?

Are we ready to put our trust in philanthropic venture capitalists to train our teachers, our leaders, and educate our children? Is the public even aware that the private education industry is already doing all these things? And do people know the extent to which children’s data is being gathered and tracked? Do you know why?

The system our Recovery Act dollars helped build is called a “human capital development data system.”

Now, do we close the door on what we have allowed to transpire and let the Smart Options dictators proceed with their plan?

Do we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to OUR public education system and let it become a casualty of the Special Interest State? Do we let it become their human capital development system?

Do we really think this is our smartest option?

Top Education Expert Has A Question for Betsy DeVos

Having begun his career in education in 1952, Marion Brady’s professional life spans not only the decades but also the rungs of the ladder of educational success. Having taught at every level as well as contributing to serious academic thought as a consultant and writer, Marion Brady IS an education expert. The following words are some of his most recent thoughts on the state of education reform in America. The addition of my own remarks will be noted in brackets [VMY]…Please consider his thoughts and the question he has for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos…

The Darwin Award is an annual tongue-in-cheek honor recognizing individuals who’ve contributed to human evolution by removing themselves from the gene pool—doing something stupid enough to kill themselves.

If there was a comparable award for countries, the United States would be in the running. I’ll explain.

Photo of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ. [DeVos rose quickly to national political power over education reform through the authority given her by Congress in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). VMY]

Worldwide, the rate of environmental, technological, and demographic change is more rapid than it’s ever been, and is accelerating. If we want to maintain our way of life, we must understand the changes, manage those that can be managed, and adapt to those that are beyond our control.

Because problems can’t be solved using the same kind of thinking that created them, understanding, managing, and adapting to change require an ability to think in new ways.

Education expert Marion Brady. [Marion climbed the ladder of success as most of us do, one rung at a time, gaining the valuable insight only experience provides. VMY]

In the 1960s, thoughtful federal education legislation and funding for research encouraged educators to think freshly, and new instructional materials in the physical and social sciences and humanities began to appear that emphasized “learning by doing” rather than merely trying to remember secondhand, delivered information. The materials went by various labels—“inquiry,” “discovery,” “active learning,” and “constructivism.”

Traditional schooling had emphasized a single thought process—the ability to recall secondhand information delivered by textbook text and teacher talk. The new “inquiry” instructional materials required kids to use dozens of thought processes—to analyze, categorize, infer, hypothesize, relate, synthesize, imagine, predict, sequence, extrapolate, value, and so on.

Unfortunately, that departure from traditional expectations generated a “back-to-basics” backlash. Leaders of business and industry high-jacked the backlash and used their clout with federal and state politicians to engineer a souped-up version of traditional schooling. No Child Left Behind, the Common Core State Standards, Race to the Top, and high-stakes standardized tests, brought back traditional schooling’s emphasis on learner ability to merely recall (and sometimes) apply existing information.

The business and industry-initiated reforms didn’t just bring back an emphasis on memory work to the neglect of all other thought processes. Progress, today’s policymakers say, has to be “measurable.”
Kids, teachers, administrators, schools and school systems must be sorted and ranked based on standardized test scores.

The “measurable” fad has made meaningful education reform impossible. The measuring is done by machine-scored standardized tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can only count correct or incorrect answers. Questions that appear to require thought are really guess-what-the-writer-of-the-test-item-was-thinking. That’s a skill, but not a particularly useful one in the real world.

Today’s test-based “reforms” are preparing the young for what was, rather than the world as it is and is becoming. That isn’t just stupid, it’s a recipe for societal disaster.

*Those responsible* for the reactionary policies that continue to block the use of teaching materials requiring the continuous use of complex thought processes owe America a satisfactory answer to a question:

The pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness requires the routine use of myriad interdependent thought processes too complex and idiosyncratic to be evaluated by standardized tests.

Given this fact

—given the cost to taxpayers of those tests—

—given the time devoted to preparing for them—

—given the life-altering consequences of their scores for learners, teachers, and schools, and

—given their role in perpetuating intellect-limiting conceptions of learning—

why is it not morally unacceptable, ethically indefensible, and practically unwise to continue their use?

If a satisfactory response isn’t forthcoming, those who take seriously the responsibilities of citizenship will encourage and support the “opt-out-of-testing” movement.

###

*To begin a much longer list*: Lou Gerstner; Edward Rust, Jr.; Bill Gates; Jeb Bush; Arne Duncan; Mike Bloomberg; Joel Klein; Kati Haycock; Bob Wise; Betsy DeVos; the officers of the Business Roundtable; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Education Trust; Democrats for Education Reform; the American Legislative Exchange Council; the Gates, Walton, Broad, Bradley, Dell and other foundations; members of Congress, and most state legislators.

[ Traditional versus “Inquiry”: Was it possible for those camps to coexist within a more balanced system? What if? But now, now we must stop the bleeding. ASK for your representatives to ANSWER the question. If you get no response, refuse to allow your child to be part of the test-based “measurable” fad. Refuse all forms of commercially developed standardized testing. Opt Out.)