Bad Policy Gets Worse

I’ve never understood some of the assumptions that surround standardized testing.  First of all, the very practice of separating the test-making from the teaching strikes me as stupid somehow.  Commissioning one person to write the test and a second to teach the material might prevent some self-protecting laziness, but it also completely evacuates the educational value of testing.  Second, the culture of public education’s strange aversion to “teaching to the test” that an alien entity has written only compounds the absurdity.  Basing schools’ state funding (sometimes federal) and possibly closing them based on students’ performance on tests only tangentially related to the curricula given to the teachers and avoided in actual instruction time is only a recipe for feudalism, rewarding those schools who were wise enough to build in areas where parents are more involved (that is to say, middle class neighborhoods) and punishing those foolish enough to try to teach the poor (part of poverty being parents’ inability or unwillingness to help children much at all with school).

Many teachers, of course, try to work around all that, making study guides for the students based on previous years’ tests and advancing the radical and dangerous idea that, if a test comes along, students might want to study for it.  But leave it to Gwinnett County to nip that in the bud–when the wealthier schools discovered that the schools with poorer populations were cheating on (i.e. studying for) the state’s tests, they complained to central office, and now the county has issued a decree that no student shall receive a study guide for the Benchmark test.

The world is safe again for those who teach the wealthy.  Long live feudalism.


Filed under Political Entertainment, teaching

2 responses to “Bad Policy Gets Worse

  1. I heard an interview with Geoffrey Canada, who runs a school in Harlem, and it was interesting to me that he does not oppose No Child Left Behind (as does every other public school teacher I’ve ever talked to). His reasoning is that standardized testing helps schools in which the students generally perform LOWER than the standard because it gives them something to shoot for. I was surprised to hear that because, as I said, I’ve never heard another teacher have anything but contempt for NCLB.

  2. If that’s all that the standardized testing regime did, then I wouldn’t have a problem with it–after all, who’s against having goals? My problem is that schools whose demographics change (in Gwinnett County, that usually happens when the families in the most expensive subdivisions demand redistricting so their kids don’t have to interact with the poorer kids) stand to lose funding or even get their schools closed down because of migration caused not by their bad teaching but factors well beyond the reach of school teachers.

    Incidentally, the first NCLB-related news I ever heard here in GA was in 2002 when an elementary school principal locked herself in her office and shot herself in the head with a .38 for just those reasons–the decree had come down from Caesar that she had lost funding and that her school was on its way out if she didn’t improve scores with the diminished funding.

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