What few people ever want to talk about is how 20 plus years of ed reform has taken the focus off the purpose of education. It’s easy to see why; when a person tries to convince parents and the public that public education, a/k/a the traditional school system of neighborhood schools managed by an elected school board, is the best option, that person doesn’t want to admit that those schools (under the pressure of test-and-punish laws that began in 2001 with No Child Left Behind) are focused on the needs of adults, not the children who show up to learn.
We do a lot of progress monitoring in schools, which does not mean that teachers are carefully gauging how well their students are doing, but does mean that we do a lot of ill-timed, poorly written, state-test-guessing-as-to-what-May’s-questions-will-look-like assessment of children.
It’s like school improvement plans. Have you ever looked at one? In Florida, the state-mandated exercise that takes place every year asks each school to document how they will raise test scores. They pretend it’s about making schools better, but they never ask and demand action-steps for anything that is not going to be tested in the spring.
In previous times, we would be ashamed of ourselves. We would not only promise to do better, but stop the nonsense.
In our time, we cite bogus research and I-appointed-myself-an-expert-credentialed-because-it-pays-well personalities to justify the continued waste of instructional time.
In our time, when reform of schools is driven by the likes of a Frank William Abagnale, Jr. who took an applique from a model airplane kit, affixed it to a plastic ID card, and then talked himself into being a pilot for a major airline. He did the same, despite his teenage looks, for a hospital in Georgia. His saving grace is that he never dared to make an actual decision or take control of anything for fear of being discovered as a phony.
He never flew a plane. He never prescribed a course of treatment. From a position of authority, he asked those underneath him for recommendations and endorsed what they said. It’s how he got away with his con for a very long time.
If only the ed reformers of the last 25 years had the same self-awareness …
But they don’t. It’s all about them and their heroic rescue of … people who don’t want rescuing but some respect and a lot of resources that have been denied them, not because they don’t merit it, but because … reasons. Reasons like we [politicians and our campaign donors] have an agenda and we need you to look bad to achieve it. Reasons like we [campaign donors and edupreneurs] want to skim taxpayer dollars into our bank accounts as profits. Reasons like those chronicled by Mark Twain in his novel, The Gilded Age.
Talk to school board members, superintendents, and high-ups and they will excuse their single-minded obsession with test scores that translate into school and then district grades, as phony as those are, as the game they must play.
The hard truth is that they are focused on the needs of the institution, the school district, which is that of survival. What children need is not forgotten, but becomes a genuflection to the priest as they walk into the cathedral of learning.
If you know of anyone who can sit out a year of worrying and waiting about the results of a one-time event without constantly poking a finger into the process of growth, much as a newbie gardener keeps digging up the seed to see if it has sprouted yet, a habit that guarantees failure, please let Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) know.
High-Ups, Higher-Ups, and High Muckety-Ups, not to speak of the Dais-Squatters who appear on a stage 48 hours after the obligatory public meeting notices go up, need something … anything … to show they are doing … something.
The scandal of our time is not the efforts from the misguided, the opportunistic, or the cheerfully I’m Evil crowd to break into the piggy bank of school taxes and glom onto the spilling coins like children diving into the booty of a just-broken pinata; the scandal of our time is the number of persons who know better and should fight for children, but instead pretend that increasing test scores substitute for true learning.
The problem with those who run public school districts under the policies and laws of the Jeb Bush era is that they are focused on the needs of adults, the need for a better score, the need for a better grade, the need for a not-untruthful item on their resume when they go hunting for the next job.
That is why we have progress monitoring and that is why we waste hours upon hours and days upon days of worthless testing.
Progress Monitoring Assessment is worthless when it takes place before children are ready, before teachers can squeeze the packed curriculum into the few hours that they have, before it can have any meaning except this: IF you leave teachers alone to actually do the teaching you want, then you might find the results you are looking for.
Alas, no. It is not meant to be. That is why GOT’s district will not let him see the actual questions from a progress monitoring that is measuring a full year of learning (180 days) after less than two-third’s of that time (120 days.) Yes, he got out his calendar and counted–old math teacher habit.
It’s a farce. The thing about being an actor in a farce is that you play for laughs from the audience. But in this case, the laughs are spittle in your face, not an appreciation of your wit.
And that is the worst thing about this nonsense. We’re so focused on our adult needs and disputes we forget how this tramples on children.