Tag Archives: High Stakes Testing

A Response to Congressman Peters

11 Jul

I received a reply from Congressman Peters (D-California 52) this April to my message against HR-5, “The Student Success Act.” The Congressman made several assertions concerning education that I discuss here in an open response.

Opening assertions by Congressman Peters:

“In an increasingly global economy, it is critical that we make educational investments that put our students in a position to compete with the rest of the world. For years, the United States has trailed countries like China and India not only in education investments, but also in student achievement. When crafting education bills, Congress should be sure that it is taking steps to close that gap, rather than broadening it.”

This paragraph states several widely held false beliefs. First of all the United States out spends India and China on education combined. According to the worldbank and a Chinese government data report for 2012, India spent less than 4% of GDP ($2.1 trillion) or about $80 Billion; China spent 4.2% of GDP ($10.36 trillion) or about $430 Billion; and the US spent more than 5% of GDP ($17.42 trillion) or about $800 Billion on education. Our education spending almost doubles India and China’s combined spending and per child we spend many times more than either country.

Student achievement measures depend upon what you want. If the goal is creative students who can innovate and lead happy lives then our system is clearly out producing India and China. One measuring stick might be Nobel Prize winners since 1949: America had 313 laureates; India 7; and China 8. Of the 8 Chinese, the Dalai Lama and Liu Xiaobo who won peace prizes both are considered criminals – Xiaobo is still in a Chinese prison; four are scientists who earned their degrees in the United States or Great Britain; and only the two literature recipients were educated in China. To recap, since 1949 two international and widely recognized citations for Chinese educated students compared to 313 such citations from our world’s best American education system.

It is common for business and political leaders to believe that standardized tests like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that is promoted by the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation are reliable indicators of school quality and student achievement. For several reasons they are not. Walter Hahn from the University of Utah recently returned to Europe to investigate the changes in education since he left. He reports that about age eleven most students are tracked into either a university path or various non-university paths. Testing of the non-university track students is not typical. Same is true in Asia. We test everyone. Researchers also point to many other problems with international testing.

It is true that US students have never been top scorers on international testing, but large segments of our students are very competitive. However, focus on testing leads to bad pedagogy. Professor Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon has written extensively about the problem with hyper-focus on testing in China. He reports that the Chinese government has been trying since the 1970’s to reform its test focused education system. However, because of the culture steeped in millennia of testing is so ingrained, Chinese parents insure test preparation. It is normal in China to put children in test preparation private academies after school and on weekends.

Some of my colleagues have been paid to go to China and demonstrate teaching while Chinese delegations searching for education improvement have visited and observed at my high school, Mar Vista High School. They do not care that our federal government labels my school as “failing.” No one in China thinks they have a great education system. Professor Zhao recently wrote, “The only way China will win the global competition of the future is for the West to begin doing education the way China does.”[1]

Standards based testing is misleading. Professor Haladyna and associates conducted a highly regarded study that shows as soon as high stakes are tied to these tests, their validity is undermined. When institutions, teachers and students gain experience with high stakes tests they find ways to focus primarily on test preparation. I was even taught by a consultant at a teacher training, “if it is not on the test, it is a waste of time to teach it.”

Another example of how high stakes undermine test results is the SAT. For three decades, SAT scores have gone up, an industry has emerged to prepare students for the tests and the predictability of future success based on test results has gotten worse. The data is quite clear that high school grades with all their flaws are much more predictive of future collegiate success than SAT test results.

Your colleague Congresswomen, Susan Davis (D-California 53), asked me “how can schools be held accountable without testing?” This indicates a belief that standardized testing is a valid measure of school or teacher quality. Today, few people outside of the testing industry believe that to be the case. When No Child Left Behind (NCLB) forced high stakes testing on the nation, it did not enforce school accountability. Ironically, based on testing results, public schools were blamed for the result of poverty by the political and businessmen who were actually responsible. Kind of anti-accountability don’t you think?

To Congresswomen Davis’ question, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) testing because it does not have high stakes attached is a reliable metric. The best school accountability is performed by regional accrediting agencies which send in teams of current educators who spend a week or more evaluating each school. They interview; administrators, teachers, students, non-certified staff and parents. They visit every class room and analyze all school documents including action plans. Finally they give useful feedback with a clear idea of what they expect in the way of improvement going forward.

I bring all this up because the re-write of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been revived. Thank you for voting against the Student Success Act this July 8. I am hoping if the Orwellian named Senate version “Every Child Achieves Act” ever comes to conference you can help improve this law.

Poverty is clearly the over arching problem in education. We have great public schools with the most educated work force American education has ever witnessed, but we have out of control child poverty and it shows up as the key driver in every statistic. Here is some data from the department of education:

In 2013, approximately 21 percent of school-age children were in families living in poverty, an increase of 4% since 1990. But that poverty is much more damaging to certain ethnicities and as this table reveals it is reflected in testing results.
Ethnicity                               White          Asian         Black         Hispanic
Living in Poverty                   13%             13%          39%            32%
NAEP 8th Grade Math           294              306           263            272
NAEP 8th Grade Reading      276             280            250            255

Pretty much all of the schools that were labeled as “failing schools” by NCLB and slated for closure or “turnaround” were in high poverty areas; while no schools in upper middle class neighborhoods were touched. Having worked in both kinds of schools, I can assure you the teaching in the wealthier neighborhoods in California is not significantly better than the teaching in poorer ones. Teachers talk disparagingly about being punished for working in the wrong zip code.

STEAM initiatives and federal test and punish programs will not solve the achievement gaps among schools as long as pervasive poverty is allowed to persist. Sending education dollars to charter schools that now have a known history of disruptive financial failure and fraud will only hurt America’s students. Please get the federal government out of the business of running schools. Give the schools back to local control. NCLB was a huge mistake and we need a course correction.

In 1910, Commissioner of Education Elmer Ellsworth Brown wrote about the genius of the American system of education:

“Our educational organization answering as it does to our federal plan of government presents peculiar advantages as regards the making of a varied flexible yet inherently unified system of instruction. It is an organization not readily understood by foreigners. It offers many obstacles to the carrying out of any plans for rapid and uniform improvement. Yet the self governing character of its several members is of itself an incalculable advantage. Whatever unity is attained must be an inner unity an agreement through conviction.”

The hugely successful public education system in America has always come from the people of their own volition adopting the education ideas that best fit their own community. Soviet style command and control education undermines the great crucible of democracy that is public education and dooms the creative American spirit. Please end the disastrous experiment in federal control of education.

1) Zhao, Yong. Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, © John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2014.

“Is TFA a CULT?”

12 May

By T. Ultican 5/12/2015

This question arose from the audience at a recent NPE (Network for Public Education) colloquium on the TFA (Teach for America) – my answer, “no, TFA is not a cult.” However, the question is not without merit. Cynical actors are taking advantage of sincere young people for personal power and profit. In the same way that military organizations take undisciplined and timid youths, isolate them, stress them and indoctrinate them with a certain ethic.

TFA indoctrinates its new corps members with a behaviorist and market based education ideology. It is not the Peoples Temple in Guyana but it is in the words of Chad Sommer “an incubator for transforming social justice minded youths into advocates for Koch-brothers style education policies.”

NPE held its 2015 convention two blocks up the street from Lake Michigan in the historic Drake Hotel. Sunday morning, I went from breakfast with hundreds of BATs, teachers, and parents, who believe public education is important enough to fight for, to a session focused on the TFA. On my way, I passed by a large open room with thirty or so well appointed tables just off the lobby. Since the construction of the Drake in 1920, high tea has been served there every day.

I recalled the story a teacher from Minnesota told me. In 1947, a public school teacher from a poverty stricken rural community not far from Minneapolis had driven her five eighth-graders to Chicago and treated them to high tea at the Drake. My new friend from Minnesota said that her eighty-year-old mother still counts that among the greatest memories of her life.

The expert panel at the TFA session:

Moderator: Julian Vasquez Heilig, Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership Program at Sacramento State University and a founding board member of the NPE.

Professor, Terica Butler earned her Doctoral degree from the Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership at University of Memphis in May 2014. Her research emphasis was on alternative paths to teacher credentialing which included researching the training of TFA corps members.

Annie Tan, is currently a special education teacher in Chicago public schools with a master degree in special education. She was a member of TFA corps class of 2011 placed in a Chicago charter school.

Chad Sommer, with a degree in marketing, became a member of the TFA corps class of 2011 placed in Chicago public elementary school.

 Jameson Brewer, Ph.D. student in Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana was a member of TFA corps class of 2010 placed at Carver High School in Atlanta, Georgia.

Katie Osgood is a special education teacher in Chicago currently working at a psychiatric hospital. She also taught special education in the Chicago Public Schools. She holds a Masters in Elementary and Special Education from DePaul University.

It may be possible to criticize the quality of some of this panel’s judgments, but one point is clear, their research and advocacy will not pave the way to personal profit or power in the same way that being pro-TFA could.

A path to political power and prestige is available to corps members and researchers who support these three positions: (1) Education outcomes are the responsibility of teachers and there are no excuses for teachers who fail to raise test scores. (2) Authoritarian leadership is required in both the classroom and in the administration of schools. (3) Market based principles are the path to scholastic improvement and standardized testing is the only reliable measurement of that improvement. Each of the panel members pushed back against these market-based “reform” positions that are profoundly embedded within TFA.

Professor Heilig opened the proceedings with a few brief personal remarks. He told us of his own experience at forums to discuss TFA and facing rooms packed by TFA corps members and supporters. He also mentioned that TFA with the backing of large private funding from organizations like the Gates, Broad and Walton foundations pays staffers on Ed-committees in Washington DC for both the Democrats and the Republicans.

TFA is an organization that is both willing and able to play power politics to get its agenda enacted.

Professor Butler observed that the summer five week training course did not equip the corps members for a full time teaching schedule in the fall. Summer-school students are only in class for four hours a day and there were normally four corps members assigned to each class. That meant that the TFA corps member student taught by sharing a class and only taught for 1 hour a day. Then in the fall they were hit with six hours a day in a classroom by themselves.

Jameson Brewer and Annie Tan were unusual corps members. They studied education in school and joined TFA to get a job when they could not find a full time teaching position. Somehow even during the height of the depression, TFA was able to place its corps members in classrooms across America.

Jameson who went through a university credentialing program prior to TFA told us that he became an example of how well TFA teachers perform in the classroom. He also shared the following table of data with us comparing TFA preparation with preparation by a typical teacher education program.

Student teaching Methods Observations
TFA 16-18 hour 125 hours 2
Typical TEP 630 hours 496 80

Chad Sommer was more typical of the TFA experience. He has written that I was “naively seduced by TFA’s do-gooder marketing pitch. I charged ahead on a mission to close the academic ‘achievement gap’ that TFA blames on incompetent (read unionized) teachers.” With a marketing degree in hand and five weeks of training which included a heavy dose of Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion (part of the TFA recipe for teaching), Chad became a new elementary school teacher at a public school in Chicago.

All three former TFA corps members agree that they were taking jobs that would otherwise have gone to a trained educator and Jameson Brewer says he directly replaced an experienced certificated teacher much to the chagrin of the principal that was forced to hire him.

The TFA Message to Corps Members

The fundamental messages these corps members received during training were that public schools in America are failing and the cause is bad teaching. Social conditions are just an excuse. Great teachers can overcome “achievement gaps” and not raising test scores means that the teacher is a failure. These failing teacher are said to have succumbed to “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” The sole arbiter of success in a classroom is test scores. This was all part of the TFA academic impact model.

Teach for America and the ‘education entrepreneurs’ who developed the “no excuses” charter school movement (mostly TFA alums) believe that America’s schools are failing and that they have a mission to save our country’s future. People like Doug Lemov, Stacey Boyd and John King, with no substantial background in education (which they see as a strength), started schools.

They Derided education theories taught by university professors. It was clear to them that the first item to fix in schools was discipline so they put children in uniforms, made many rules about everything the children did and enforced those rules harshly. It reminds professional educators of 19th century pedagogy.

Based on behaviorist theory, the “no excuses” model is completely authoritarian and autocratic. While a really skilled practitioners might raise test scores employing these harsh tactics, there are terrible side effects. Students learn to hate learning and creativity is sundered. To use professor Zhao’s metaphor – Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer will be killed.

Annie’s Story

I met Annie Tan at breakfast on Saturday morning. As I was headed into lunch after the morning sessions I encountered Annie again. Being a friendly engaging person, she invited me to go with her to find a table. We walked to the front of the giant room accommodating at least 35 tables for 12 and sat down with Jose Vilson, the well-known blogger from New York, Peter Greene AKA Curmudgucation, Jennifer Berkshire AKA EduShyster, and Adell Cothorne, the principle who blew the whistle on Michelle Rhee. Also at the table was Peter Greene’s wife. It was an amazing hour and I discovered that Peter, his wife and Jose are trombone player like myself. Later, I learned that Peter and his wife met through their participation in a community orchestra.

Annie Tan graduated from Columbia University with an emphasis in special education. When she could not get a job, she joined the TFA and was sent to Chicago. Annie was assigned as a special education teacher at a charter school in Chicago. She was the only special education teacher on staff for grades K-4.

The only support she received was during her monthly TFA advisory visits. The school was led by a TFA alum and most of the staff was current or former TFA corps members. Few staff member had more than three years’ experience. In February, Annie’s TFA supervisor (not the principal) informed her she was failing as a teacher by not moving her students fast enough towards success on standardized testing and may be fired.

At the end of the year, she was fired. Four years later, she has a master’s degree in special education and is succeeding as a teacher in the Chicago Public School system.

I know from my personal experience that being labeled a failure is psychically devastating. Primary tenets of corporate inspired “reform” include disruption, labeling a certain percentage of people failures and firing them as a warning to those left behind.

During my first year of teaching, I worked under the Alan Bersin administration in San Diego. Diane Ravitch tells the story of Bersin and the corporate “reform” piloting done by San Diego Unified School District in her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. I was fired for not moving my students toward achieving standards even though my classes scored extremely well on the district end of course exams.

I had a credential in math, a credential in physics and high test scores but that was all trumped by the requirement to let go a certain number of first year teachers. I was a fifty year-old and that is probably the reason I was targeted. Even though I felt certain the firing had very little to do with my actual performance in the classroom, I was bothered by self-doubt about my abilities as an educator for the next decade.

I am guessing the Annie still believes in some corner of her mind that she failed at her first teaching job and that thought still undermines her confidence. Authoritarianism is a horrible creed and especially horrible when applied to an education environment.

TFA is a Cult

A great warrior for public education, Katie Osgood, made these three assertions: “TFA is a cult; its corps members are exhausted, isolated and only have TFA to attach to.” “TFA is destroying communities of color: they drive out teachers of color.” And “Tenure is a children’s right.” While I quibbled with her use of the term cult, I recognize she is the psychiatric professional and I certainly agree that they do use the techniques she describes to change youthful idealistic minds toward a market based ideology.

Her last two claims are unvarnished truth. Katy has been identified by TFA as the number one opponent of TFA on social media. She is relentless and impassioned. I am glad she is on my side. In her “An Open Letter to Teach for America Recruits” Katie writes:

“Many of you no doubt believe you are joining a progressive education justice movement; that is the message TFA sells so well. But TFA is not progressive. The data-driven pedagogy, the fast-track preparation, the union-busting, the forced exploitation of your labor, the deep-pocketed affiliation with corporate education reform are all very conservative, very anti-progressive ideas.”


“Ask yourself: Since when did billionaires, financial giants, or hedge fund managers on Wall Street begin to care about the education of poor black and brown children in America? If you follow the money, you will see the potential for mass profit through privatization, new construction, union-busting, and educational service industries. Why would a group dedicated to educational justice partner with these forces?”

On further reflection, I think TFA just might be a cult.

Standards Based Education is Bad Education Theory

30 Mar

By Thomas Ultican 3/10/2015

While discussing a student’s next class schedule with an outstanding student counselor, I learned my colleague had become dependent on testing data to place her students. That is not a surprise; it is one of the fundamental errors permeating education globally. Standards based testing is a fraud; a mirage that falsely projects an aura of objective analysis. As soon as high stakes are tied to these tests, their validity is undermined.

The learning standards upon which high stakes testing is based come from a mistaken philosophy of pedagogy that posits: a standardized learning rate, standardized interests, linear learning progression, developmental alignment, etc. Humans are not standard. Some learn to speak at 16 months and some don’t acquire that skill until 72 months. Some are short, others are tall. Some are fast, other are not. A child from urban Chicago has different perceptions and interests than a child from Winnemucca, Nevada. A global curriculum will not meet the needs of an endlessly diverse population. One size truly does not fit all. Even if it did, it would still be a bad idea to have political entities in centers of power deciding what that curriculum should be.

About 500 BC, the ancient Pythagoreans were a mathematically based cult. One of their beliefs (mathematical standard) was that there was no such thing as an irrational number. An irrational number is a number that cannot be expressed as a ratio of two numbers such as ½. The most famous irrational number is the ratio of the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter which is expressed as π (≈3.14). The writer, Morris Kline, claims that the man credited with the discovery of irrational numbers was a Pythagorean named Hippasus who had the bad sense to announce his discovery while at sea. He was thrown overboard for his heretical thinking![1] This story may be apocryphal but it does delightfully illustrate the danger associated with ossifying thinking with standards.

The longest most sustained use of standards and standardized testing arose in China more than 2000 years ago during the Han dynasty. It was an attempt to select government official based on some sort of meritocracy rather than feudal family station. However, local Lords were able to subvert the testing criteria and maintain the power of appointment. Starting in about 200 AD, China entered a 400 year long warring states period of instability.

In 581 AD, the new Emperor Wen of the Sui dynasty achieved a coup over his employer the Northern Zhao and then militarily unified China. Emperor Wen believed he needed to protect himself from the power of feudal lords, so he reintroduced the ‘keju’ or testing system to select government bureaucrats. Meritocracy based on test results became the sole path to a government position. University of Oregon’s dean of global education and professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Yong Zhao, recently wrote about the ‘keju’ system:

“The emperor’s biggest concern was keeping China unified under his family’s rule. Learning from his own example, he realized he needed a way to weaken the hereditary power of certain families and tribes. Thus, he needed to find people who could help govern the country without relying on the existing ruling class. He also needed a way to prevent capable talents from rising against the empire and reinforce among his subjects the need to obey the rightful rule of the Son of Heaven.

We can’t know how much Emperor Wen planned and strategized, but the establishment of keju accomplished every one of the goals.”[2]

The ‘keju’ exams focused on memorization of the Confucian cannon and interpretive expository writing about the cannon and current political affairs. By far the most prestigious position in pre-industrial China was a government appointment obtained by success in these exams. This testing became the focus of education for virtually everyone living in the most advanced civilization on the planet.

It has been estimated that in 600 AD, China had at least a 400-year scientific lead on the rest of the world. So why didn’t the industrial revolution occur in China? Former Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank, Justin Yifu Lin posits:

“I believe the real reason of the absence of scientific revolution was not due to the adverse political environment that prohibited the creativity of Chinese intellectuals, but due to the special incentives provided by the civil-service examination system. Because of this examination system, curious geniuses were diverted from learning mathematics and conducting controllable experiments. Because of this system, the geniuses could not accumulate crucial human capital that was essential for the scientific revolution. As a result, the discoveries of natural phenomena could only be based on sporadic observations, and could not be upgraded into modern science which was built upon mathematics and controlled experiments.”[3]

 In China’s case the test became the education standard and that has been an ironclad law of standards and standards based testing ever since. Even David Coleman, the man who sold the Common Core to Bill Gates and then directed their development, knows that the tests become the real standards that will be taught. In a speech, he said:

“It was Lauren who propounded the great rule that I think is a statement of reality, though not a pretty one, which is teachers will teach towards the test. There is no force strong enough on this earth to prevent that. There is no amount of hand-waving, there’s no amount of saying, and ‘They teach to the standards, not the test; we don’t do that here.’”[4]

For America the first large scale standards movement was led by the Committee of Ten which published its report in 1894. Prepared under the auspices of the National Educational Association, this report was first published by the Bureau of Education, at Washington DC. The Committee of Ten was led by Harvard University President, Charles W. Elliot. The ten members supervised the development of standards for 9 different subjects. Nine subcommittees of ten members each worked in various locations around the country on their particular field of expertise.

There was an attempt to insure that the subcommittees were constituted by members representing diverse geographical locations. The committees were dominated by college staff and administrators but there were one or two classroom teachers on most of the committees, but the largest group of educators in America appears to have been ignored. There were no women on any of the committees.[5]

Two of the published standards – and there are many more – illustrate the innate problem with codified standards:

“They recommend ‘that the course in arithmetic be at once abridged and enriched; abridged by omitting entirely those subjects which perplex and exhaust the pupil without affording any really valuable mental discipline, and enriched by a greater number of exercises in simple calculation, and in the solution of concrete problems.’”[6]

So in mathematics, the committee called for more drill and skill which is exactly the kind of teaching Benjamin Bloom’s ‘Taxonomy of Educational Objectives’ called into question. The following comes from the science standards:

“As regards Resolutions 3, 4, and 5, it should be said that the order recommended for the study of Chemistry and Physics is plainly not the logical one, but all the members with one exception voted for Resolution 3 because they felt that the pupils should have as much mathematical knowledge as possible to enable them to deal satisfactorily with Physics, while they could profitably take up elementary Chemistry at an earlier stage.”[7]

This decision is why to this day we teach biology then chemistry then physics. This order is exactly backwards. To read a biology book a student needs knowledge of chemistry and to understand the forces that drive chemical reactions the principles of energy from physics is needed. San Diego Unified School District tried to rectify this order but they abandoned their expensive effort. The district was unfairly punished when their 9th grade physics student test scores did no compare well with the scores of mainly 11th and 12th grade students from across California on mandated standardized testing.

Mark Silver of John Hopkins reports,

“The standards movement has its roots in curriculum content and skills. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) was one of the first national professional organizations to publish national curriculum standards and goals.”[8]

These standards were guiding documents for the development of the California math standards which are widely considered superior to the common core standards. The common complaint I heard from fellow teachers implementing the California math standards was that they were “a mile wide and an inch deep.” These standards took us from “uncovering” mathematical principles to “covering” the material. Constructivist approaches like problem based learning were completely undermined and math instruction was pushed back to 1894’s drill and skill model. The high stakes involved made success on a narrow range of tested material paramount.

Since the inception of the California math standards, ossified standards have existed; for example rationalizing denominators. This procedure insures that there are no square-root factors in a denominator. Before calculators, rationalizing denominators significantly eased difficult arithmetic, but after calculators dividing by radicals became no more difficult than dividing by sums. Still the California teachers were compelled to drill their students on an antiquated algorithm.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Japan and China reacted differently to being behind the West scientifically and technically. China maintained its education culture and purchased technology. Japan completely changed its approach to education and engaged in a strenuous effort to catch the West in science, mathematics and manufacturing. The hallmark of Japan’s approach was authoritarianism. The goals of education became modernizing and producing loyal disciples for the Emperor. These purposes were to be insured by tested education standards. The education reformer, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, criticized both the goals and the methods. He denounced standards based education as mechanized education and agonized over putting children through “testing hell”.

With authoritarian standards based education, Japan became both a world power and a menace. China’s equally authoritarian standards based education led to weakness and vulnerability. Both countries were on a path of ruin.

The renowned historian, Arnold Toynbee established a criteria for judging whether a civilization was in a stage of growth or decline. He wrote:

“We must ask whether, as we look back over the ground we have traversed, we can discern any master tendency at work, and we do in fact unmistakably decry a tendency towards standardization and uniformity: a tendency which is correlative and opposite of the tendency towards differentiation and diversity which we have found to be the mark of the growth stage of civilizations.”[9]

Both John Dewey and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi counseled against standardized education. Dewey stated “Imposing an alleged uniform general method upon everybody breeds mediocrity in all but the very exceptional.”[10] And Makiguchi theorized that “Education integrated into the life of society will yield benefits of well-planned living, without the undesirable effect of mechanical uniformity an inherent danger in standardized education.”[11]

What is the root of the persistent and two millennial old tendency for politicians with minimal knowledge of education creating education standards and mandating testing accountability? It originates in a deep rooted innate and evil desire in humans to control other humans. If we do not fight this tendency, we are doomed to live in an authoritarian society where political elites ensure subservience by controlling education standards enforced by standardized testing.

A better path forward is the development of consensus about the purposes of education through continual dialogue. Then allow professional educators to create curricular guidance by a process of peer reviewed research. Community schools should use that curricular guidance in the best way they see fit and should be encouraged to experiment. Statistical sampling identical to the National Assessment of Education Progress should be used to assess progress and provide information for the purposes of continued dialogue, research and further progress. It should be an ongoing process with no shortcuts; no silver bullets and no miracles.

As for my colleague’s concern about guidance in student class placement, teacher grades and recommendations along with input from the student and their parents is a far more reliable method of placement than relying on dubious standardized testing scores.

  1. Morris Kline (1990), Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times, page 32. Oxford University Press
  2. Yong Zhao (2014), Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Jossey-Bass of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Page 38
  3. http://www.uq.edu.au/economics/cepa/docs/seminar/papers-nov2006/Lin-Paper.pdf
  4. http://atthechalkface.com/2013/12/23/this-is-the-common-core-you-support/
  5. https://openlibrary.org/books/OL7129384M/Report_of_the_Committee_of_ten_on_secondary_school_studies
  6. https://archive.org/stream/reportofcomtens00natirich#page/105/mode/1up
  7. https://archive.org/stream/reportofcomtens00natirich#page/119/mode/1up
  8. http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/Transforming%20Education/Articles/Trends%20in%20School%20Reform/
  9. Arnold Toynbee (DC Somervell), “A study of History” abridgement Volume 1 – VI, Oxford University Press, 1946, page 555
  10. Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillan, 1916. Page 203
  11. Ikeda, Daisaku. Soka Education. Santa Monica, California: Middleway Press. 2001 Page 18