Radar shows blowback against test-heavy school policies (column) | SummitDaily.com

Radar shows blowback against test-heavy school policies (column)

John Young
Special to the Daily

Hold on to your coffee cup. We have identified the endangered species known as bipartisan consensus in America.

You thought that we would never see it again. Yet, amazingly, consensus is forming on two key issues.

The first should be no surprise, having been self-evident all along. But now that the Republican presidential candidates all appear to admit it, we have bipartisan agreement that invading Iraq was a mistake.

The second across-the-aisle consensus may surprise you a little more. After all, for roughly a generation, policy makers have been absolutely oblivious to the truth. However, bipartisanship has coalesced around the realization that the amphetamine crush that is standardized testing is killing public schools.

Did I say amphetamine crush? You’ve got that right.

For if you have one test, you need another. And shortly thereafter you need to “raise the bar,” so you need another test.

And the school district needs more tests to “benchmark” what teachers are teaching. And suddenly, you have the Texas grade-school teacher who told me 16 instructional days, nearly a month of them, were consumed by testing.

What’s most scandalous is that the testing rarely serves the interest of the children. It serves only the interests of politicians to rate and berate — schools and teachers, respectively — when the schools fail to massage stones into loaves and water to wine.

Not that we can expect policy makers to cease, entirely, demands like these, but finally, consider:

The Colorado Legislature, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans the Senate, just shelved several state-mandated high school tests. Actually, the clear consensus in the Legislature was to go even further, but Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, threatened a veto.

Actually, and quite significantly, Republicans led the charge in Denver — significant because it was George W. Bush and Republicans who led us into this quagmire.

The Obama administration stands blinded by the dust storm itself. Education Secretary Arne Duncan traipses around saying what parents and teachers know to be untrue, that standardized tests wielded from afar are key in a linear national quest for excellence.

No they are not. Criterion-based standardized tests are a dead weight on education. They manifest the corporate misimpression that education is training. Translated: If every child is drilled on the very same criteria, all will be better suited for serving mankind.

Lest anyone think that Colorado alone has arrived at this stage of bipartisan revolt, consider:

Last week the governing board of a multi-state set of online assessments known by a rack of Scrabble tiles, PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) announced it would reduce English tests by an hour and math tests by a half hour in each grade.

This is a move approved by the 11 participating states, including Colorado.

PARCC is associated with the controversial Common Core standards and was spawned by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative.

At this point, whatever their political persuasion, people who know testing has harmed education should be thankful for the Common Core. I say this not because the Common Core is good for education. In fact, it is just one more shiny set of lead boots for educators.

No, the reason that we should be thankful for the Common Core is because its association with all things Obama has caused right-wingers to realize the truth about what Bush’s policies have wrought for public schools: one-size-fits-all, corporatized, long-distance mandates that destroy local control. And they don’t work, no matter who seizes on them as the key to excellence.

Whatever the cause of the bipartisan consensus on testing, now we must bring it to bear on all 50 states. That means objective No. 1 is to relegate No Child Left Behind to the graveyard of misbegotten national policies.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


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