Monday, May 27, 2013
Where is Our Outrage?
My background contributes to my frustration now with events in American public education. Right now across the country, we all see what is happening to education as corporate reformers suck more and more public money into the private sector via an unjustifiable excess of testing and through for-profit charter schools. States are turning public money earmarked for our children's education into vouchers for unaccountable private schools. In Ohio and several other states, third graders must pass a test in order to be promoted to fourth grade, in spite of the evidence that children who are retained have a much higher risk of dropping out. Mandate after mandate requires enormous amounts of money to comply, with no additional funding. We used to protest at unfunded mandates, but we have lost our ability for outrage.
Policymakers have silently usurped local control from our schools, creating a generation of children who can't think or solve a problem unless they are presented with four bubble-in choices. Creativity has been stamped out of public schools by standardized testing. Art, music, and phys ed have taken trivial roles in elementary schools if they are present at all. A superintendent friend of mine recently lamented, "I was in Afghanistan and I helped in their schools. They're a third world country. They have art and music. This is America and some of our schools can't afford art and music." We have money to fight unnecessary wars and pay Pearson millions and millions of dollars for testing, but we lack the will to provide funding for our children's education? Something is drastically wrong, but where is our outrage?
When the new PARCC assessments roll out in 2014-15, schools will need to have updated computers and infrastructure to the tune of thousands of dollars for every district. Teachers will be evaluated based on tests that have never been administered, and their careers will be affected by whether or not they can get students to pass a computerized test that they have never seen. Students' futures will hang on a curriculum and a burdensome series of assessments that are untried. Interventions will be required from private agencies at public expense, sending more money from public coffers into private pockets. Legislators sit in their comfy offices with their personal assistants and mandate the provision of interventions to help students learn but don't provide a dime for the resources to do it. We should be outraged!
The new testing regimen demands many more days and hours of mind-numbing testing for our children and there are plans to begin testing children in pre-school. Do we really want to quantify and measure three-year olds? Can we measure the things that really count? Is there a standardized test to illustrate love of learning, curiosity, passion? Isn't that what we want for our students? I maintain that excessive standardized testing creates an environment exactly opposite of what all of us hope for children. What about our teachers? Do children's standardized test scores tell me that a teacher cares and treats my child with respect? That the teacher is supportive, a positive role model? How about the teachers in Moore, OK or Newtown, CT? How do you evaluate whether a teacher would take a bullet for my child? A tired maxim enjoins that "not all that counts can be measured and not all that can be measured counts." Who has decided what should be measured and how?
We are on the wrong path with our children's education and we must figure out a way to escape it. It's time to do something for our children and support our public schools before it's too late. It's time to write legislators, march on state capitols, picket, opt out, vote, do something! It's time for a return of outrage.