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Peter Greene read Arne Duncan’s speech carefully on the future of NCLB and boils down his vision of the federal role in education to one word: testing.
“First, Duncan positions assessment in the center of his education universe. He starts out by describing a large vision of education, one that is filled with innovation, meets the needs of every child, promotes equity, provides opportunity, values all subject areas, and provides every school with sufficient support and resources. And somehow considering all those aspects of a grand vision of education leads him to a Big Standardized Test. That’s it.
“It’s like someone who describes the awesome heights and sensations of a gourmet dinner, teasing you with visions of tastes and textures, savory combinations and a palate immersed in gustatorial ecstasy and then, after all that description and anticipation, at the moment of the Big Reveal, draws back the curtain on— a can opener.
“Testing is Chef Duncan’s can opener.”
Despite the universal failure of Duncan’s test-based teacher evaluation, despite its debunking by the Anerican Statistical Association, Duncan stubbornly clings to it. He is certain that parents want to know how their child compares to children in other states. I don’t understand that. I always had many questions about how my children were doing in school but I never wondered how they compared to children their age in other states. I wanted to know if they worked well with others, if they were respectful to their teachers, if they were good citizens, if they completed their school work in time. I counted on their teachers to bring any problems to my attention, and they did.
“Parents are morons
“It wouldn’t be a Duncan speech about testing without the presumption that schools are liars and parents are dopes.
“Will we work together to ensure every parent’s right to know every year how much progress her child is making in school?
“Because only with the intervention and oversight of the federal government can parents have a clue about how their children are doing in school. And only a federally-mandated BS Test can give them a picture of their child’s education.
“Later in the speech, Duncan suggests that “maybe our only hope is absolute honesty and transparency.” It is a great line, and one that I absolutely agree with.
“And yet, like most of Duncan’s prettiest rhetoric, it’s not reflected in any policy that he actually pursues. Doubling down on testing without considering its damaging effects and its utter failure to measure anything it claims to measure– this is not honest or transparent. The continued investing of BS Tests with powers they don’t have and effects they cannot achieve is neither honest nor transparent. The absolute refusal to hear opposing viewpoints is neither honest nor transparent.
“Duncan makes much noise about the need to supply quality education to the poor, to minorities, to students anywhere in the country who are not getting the full benefit of public education. He hears the cries for education and equity and justice and having heard them, he is sending… standardized tests (well, and charter schools, for some of those students, anyway).
“Regardless of your diagnosis of US educational ills, I don’t know how you arrive at the prescription, “We need more Big Standardized Tests driving all major decisions from the federal level.” Particularly after we’ve had a few years to see just how poorly how that actually works. Duncan’s speech includes an impassioned plea not to turn back the clock, not to return to a failed past. What he either can’t or won’t see is that his devotion to a failed test-based education policy is just such a retrograde response to education concerns.
“The Big Standardized Test can now takes its place in the gallery of failed educational policies of the past. If Duncan really wanted to move forward, he would leave BS Testing in the past where it belongs.”