It has been a while since I posted as I am working hard on coordinating the Taking Back OUR Schools NY METRO Rally in NYC on May 17. But with that in mind I thought it would be good to follow those posts up with a segment from my book regarding BAD EDUCATION POLICY.
“Both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have made standardized testing not only the single most important assessment of student ability, but also of teacher ability:
‘What supporters of this measure and even most of its critics miss, however, is the debilitating effect of standardized testing on teachers. In the same way that teaching to the test requires less critical thinking by students, teachers need not engage in critical thinking in order to teach this material. In fact, teachers are actually being discouraged from thinking for themselves. As curricula standardize around high-stakes exams, teachers become, in essence, educational delivery systems rather than skilled professionals.’ [Is Jonathan Rees of the University of Southern Colorado calling teachers the new conveyor belt?]
Consider the example of Edison Schools, Inc., [a decade and a half ago] the largest private company running public schools in the United States. Edison likes to measure its performance through state-standardized test scores. For this reason, their curricula are highly standardized (75 percent is determined by the company and 25 percent by local authorities). One Edison teacher told a reporter for Teacher Magazine that ‘independent-minded’ teachers might not be cut out to work for Edison. ‘The program is too rigid,’ she says. This is one reason that a ‘very high percentage’ of Edison teachers are at ‘the beginning stages of their careers.’ (Cookson, 2000)
I wholeheartedly agree with Professor Rees’ conclusion.
“If teachers cannot choose methods and topics that engage both them and their students, education will suffer. The reason for this is that contrary to the assumptions of standardized test advocates, education is not an ordinary commodity. It cannot accurately be measured in discreet units. Thus, it defies numerical measurement. Furthermore, there is no one best way to teach anything. Different content and different methods will work for different teachers in different settings. Destroying teacher prerogatives by introducing evaluation methods akin to scientific management will inevitably hurt production rather than help it along.” (Rees 2001)