Just a thought….

So I was listening to the radio yesterday, on my way to a full day workshop on Differentiating Instruction in Math.  I was on the highway, on my hour and a half commute to the class, on a lovely spring Saturday.   The topic on the radio was the current effort to reauthorize the famous “No Child Left Behind” Law.


The speaker was the former Secretary of Education under George W. Bush.   I forget her name, sorry.    But I do remember a few of the pearls of wisdom that she had to share.   I consider myself very lucky not to have suffered a stroke on the way to my class.

First of all, on the question of “teaching to the test”, she said, “Well, if the test is truly measuring what children should know, what is wrong with teaching to the test?”   SAY, WHAT????

Has she not heard of school districts who, under the threat of being declared “Underperforming”, have started to give practice tests in September for the May state tests?  Has she not been made aware of how teachers are forced to spend hours scoring those pretend tests in order to figure out exactly where to focus the majority of their teaching time in a desperate attempt to make “Adequate Yearly Progress”?   Can she really, truly be unaware of the fact that every hour spent scoring pretend tests is an hour NOT spent in creating meaningful and interesting lessons?   Is it possible that she somehow fails to grasp the fact that every afternoon spent practicing how to fill in the bubbles is NOT spent in interactive, higher level, critical thinking activities?

Second, when she was asked about whether or not it was appropriate for the federal government to be mandating curriculum decisions, she stated that it is the job of the federal government to legislate the goal of having every single child in the United States (even the ones who arrived here three months ago, and those who are blind, deaf or emotionally disturbed) achieve grade level mastery of all concepts.  When asked about whether or not the federal government should then provide the means for achieving this lovely pipe-dream, she primly answered, “Oh, no!  The provision of education is a local and state responsibility!”

So…..OK.   I guess they are going to reauthorize “No Child Left Behind.” The feds will all stand around in a circle, congratulating themselves on how special they are for demanding that everyone everywhere becomes an honor student.  State legislators will look at each other, shrug, and turn to the local districts, demanding that those districts immediately begin to churn out students who uniformly score in the average range on every single measure, every single year.  School district administrators will gulp, take an aspirin, and turn to their teachers, ordering more tests, more data collection and higher scores.

And teachers everywhere will gag, and weep and swallow hard.  Then we will turn to our students, smile gamely, and try to find a way to raise those damn scores while still letting kids think, and play and learn and, maybe, if we are very skilled, enjoy these fleeting days of childhood.


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