Hello, reader! If you intend to post a link to this blog on Twitter, be aware that for utterly mysterious reasons, Twitter thinks this blog is spam, and will prevent you from linking to it. Here's a workaround: change the .com in the address to .ca. I call it the "Maple Leaf Loophole." And thanks for sharing!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


I'd like to elaborate on a few things that became too long for a comment on Dans post questioning the call for policy makers to take standardized tests.

On the rationale behind it: I get that people don't understand what it would accomplish. Direct action often isn't meant to accomplish anything for its own sake. Gandhi didnt just want everyone to get some free salt (Don't worry I am not comparing this situation to oppression by the British Empire. It's just an example.) Rather it's symbolic and intended to draw attention to something larger. The inappropriate use of standardized tests to punish and shame teachers and schools is a public policy crisis. Evaluating politicians on their performance on a math or literacy test would be equally inappropriate. That's the point.

On whether activism is appropriate here: Our elected and appointed decision makers have been unresponsive to professional educators, historians, and statisticians voicing our concerns calmly and politely since NCLB started failing to improve schools ten+ years ago. Most, I'd say nearly all, educators have responded by putting their heads down and doing their best despite constraints imposed by testing, and waiting for the insanity to pass. We are a practical lot, we tend to be rule-followers and respectful of authority, and are motivated by what's best for the kids in front of us right now. However for some people with more money than morals, the motive is not to help schools improve but to end public education. If you believe a sound education is a human right, this has got to piss you off. If you are like me, you try to think of ways you can do something about it, and you try to teach your kids that they have responsibilities if they want to live in a functioning democracy.

On what I hope this could accomplish if enough people pay attention: I don't think all of our politicians and policy makers are dumb or evil or need to be publicly humiliated. But I do want to try, with what limited reach I have, and suggest to the ones who can be swayed that bad-test-based accountability-mania is wrong and destructive and there is a better way, if what we really want is effective public schools and a citizenry with a sound basic education. So if any of you are listening: take a test and see how you do, and reflect on what that number says about you. Reflect on what influences that number for a variety of kids with varieties of challenges in their lives. Reflect on whether it makes sense to judge and compare schools and teachers based on that number. Reflect on how kids and teachers are spending their time in school if they are motivated by fear to maximize that number, and whether you think that is a healthy use of their time. Ask yourself if punishment is an appropriate response. And then start listening and talking to people who know how to do this better.