Paul Thomas once again hits the nail on the head. While I have never agreed with the Obama Administration’s love affair with charter schools and their refusal to revise the ESEA/NCLB law, this continued use of a test (NAEP) that is not connected to any curricula taught in the states equates to setting public educators up for failure.
There is no way to succeed on these tests–especially in the current environment. Public education is coming off of six years of deep cuts, yet the USDOE complains about stagnating scores on a test that is in no way, shape, or form connected to a student. In other words, students are not accountable to do well on these tests, so why should they? These test scores are not part of their transcripts. These test scores are not part of college applications. These test scores are not used by potential employers. These test scores are not even part of a student’s cumulative record. Yet schools are failing our kids when they don’t perform on them? And schools with insanely large class sizes and demoralized teachers are failing our kids when scores are stagnant? And schools that have had to slash over a quarter of their budget are failing our kids?
Sec’y Duncan needs to quit talking out of both sides of his mouth. He needs to quit saying he supports education then turn around and demonize the very profession he professes to buttress with these misguided and and non research based “Reforms.” He needs to start owning that he intends to move public education toward privatization. He needs to own that testing, technology, and textbook companies are profiting hugely from the USDOE’s policies. He needs to own that schools are succeeding despite the sinkholes like Race to the Top that he and others in the Obama Administration set before educators. He needs to own that the USDOE’s tactics are tantamount to blackmail–do what we want or we starve you some more.
It’s time to start celebrating our successes and finding the common ground on reform. It’s time to start treating educators as the professionals they are and to engage them in the process of constantly bettering our schools. It’s time to tap educators creative energies instead of lock-stepping them to punitive testing tied to evaluations oblivion. It’s time to start treating the profession of educator as a prestigious and valued one–or recruitment and retention of great teachers and administrators will continue to become increasingly difficult (one only need to look at the steep decline of enrollees into teacher prep programs to see that we do have a problem on our hands). All of us agree that we want good schools. Many of us agree that equity, equal opportunity, adequacy of funding are important issues. So why can’t we find common ground instead of looking to scapegoat the entire profession? Well, that would be politics instead of pragmatism. The day we can stop trying to score politic points is the day that we can really move forward with “reform.”