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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Political Fire Prevention

Oophs, who didn't know that it was impossible to get all the children in our country on grade level by 2014.  I, for one, was just thrilled at the notion.  It was going to be a miracle and I would be there.  Of course, any school that was not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward that goal would be labeled a failing school.  The school systems that back loaded the expectations for big gains closer to the goal line were banking on either miracles happening or the political weight of all those failing schools crushing the life out of the goal.  And the latter is just what has happened.

Secretary Duncan has recently said that "the current law drives down standards, weakens accountability, causes narrowing of the curriculum and labels too many schools as failing."  It is that last one that has caught the attention of governors around the country.  These people need to run for office and they can't do it on a record of failing schools.

So now as the deadline is practically here, school systems may ask for and be granted a waiver.  Basically the requirement for the waiver is simply that school systems come up with another plan to close the gap between high and low achievers in the system.  What people have seemed to come up with is blaming the teachers.

Now teachers will be evaluated on how well their students do on tests.  Get ready for people to be REALLY surprised when 1) the curriculum continues to narrow as teachers of tested subjects just emphasize the test content and 2) become increasingly unhappy in their jobs.  Oh and the instances of cheating of both students and teachers will increase.  That will surprise people too.

The problem is not the we are all going to achieve goal, nor the quality of our teachers.  The problem is using standardized tests to measure learning.  It really is simple.  We do not all need to learn the same stuff.  We do not all learn any stuff in the same way.  And we do not learn any stuff at the same rate.  If we could just admit that universal truth, we might have a prayer of providing an appropriate education for all of our children.