May 16, 2011

Letter From The Teacher #1: Mandatory, High Stakes Tests

Anytown High School, Any State, USA

To: Mr. & Mrs. Smith
From: Mr. English Teacher
Re: Apology

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Smith:

As I stand here watching your daughter, Lauren, working diligently on her mandatory, high-stakes test, I realize that I owe you--and all of the parents of my students--an apology. So I sincerely apologize. Why am I apologizing? Because this week, Iím wasting your daughterís time. In fact, teachers across the state are wasting their studentís time by forcing them to take a series of state-mandated, high-stakes tests. And you should know that itís not really my fault, but I feel badly about it just the same, so Iím apologizing.

Whose fault is it? For once it really is, more or less, George W. Bushís fault. Iím sure you realize that Texas is in many ways, for good or ill, the national educational model. Well, when Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, he discovered that Hispanic kids werenít doing as well in reading and other academic skills as other kids, and out of genuine concern for their welfare and with the best intentions, he wanted to do something about it.

Whatís wrong with that? Nothing really, except that he was a businessman, so he applied what he knew--the business model--to education. Soon, all of the kids in Texas--and pretty much everywhere else when he became president--became toasters.

Letís say that you manufacture toasters, and everything is just toasty, until you discover that a disturbing portion of your toasters come off the assembly line with faults. You immediately began a quality assurance program, which consists of testing, to determine what is wrong so that you can fix it. You test the workers, and the machinery and the process, and you find and fix the faults, and lo and behold, shiny, perfectly happy toasters sprout wings and fly from the assembly line to live long, warmly productive lives in American kitchens.

The problem is that kids arenít toasters, and the education process has little relation to the business world. In education, our toasters can decide not to come to the factory. They can decide not to accept parts. They can annoy the workers and the other toasters and interfere with the entire process. They can, if they wish, leap off the production line and run out of the factory, never to be seen again.

Education is a calling, if you will, that is very prone to fads, fads that are so brilliant, so bold, so amazing that they will revolutionize education, at least thatís what their authors promise. Except of course, they never do--revolutionize education, I mean. Usually, they make it harder for teachers to teach and students to learn, and usually, they make things worse. They almost never actually help.

Fads tend to last until the people who staked their reputations and careers on the fads simply fade away, are fired, are run out of town in the manner of villagers attacking Dr. Frankensteinís castle with torches and pitchforks, or a more attractive fad comes along to replace the current fad. The problem, you see, is that these fads tend to become nation-wide holy writ, even laws, and it often takes a decade or more for a fad that was a really stupid idea in the first place--which teachers would have said if anyone had bothered to actually listen to them, which almost no one does--to go away. And oh dear, do we waste billions of dollars on idiotic ideas!

Do you remember the ďOpen Classroom ConceptĒ of the 70s and early 80s? It was the going fad for more than a decade. The idea was that classrooms were dull, boring boxes that squashed creativity. Why, if only we built schools without walls, we would have previously unimaginable creative potential! Think of the flexibility, the freedom, the brilliance of such a stunning, new concept! And so schools without walls were built across the nation. Untold billions were spent at a time when a billion dollars was real money. And it was an utter disaster, as any teacher could have told them, had they bothered to ask or listen.

With no walls, the distraction factor went off the scale. The disrupting effect of what was going on from class to class was overpowering. Discipline went out the window, and teachers found it nearly impossible to teach anything. Schools spent additional millions for free-standing office-divider-like walls, still trying to salvage the concept, but it was futile. The distraction factor from noise alone was impossible to overcome. If one classroom watched a movie, everyone within earshot heard the movie. Kids selectively tuned out and tuned into lessons all around them.

So what eventually happened? Those who had a stake in the brilliant concept eventually retired, fled for their lives ahead of lynch mobs of angry parents, or made more money hawking other fads. But hundreds of millions more were spent building walls in buildings that werenít designed for walls. Even today, the remaining buildings have a bizarre mix of strangely shaped and sized rooms with horribly uneven ventilation, and electrical outlets--where they have any at all-in the strangest places.

What was lost in all of those years was time. Time, to the dedicated teacher, is their most precious commodity. A single class day lost is time that can never be regained, educational opportunities lost. All of the lessons, information, intellectual growth lost to that generation of students is impossible to quantify, but itís very real--and tragic--nonetheless. This is the hidden downside, the danger, of educational faddism.

And so we are in the throes of the latest fad, which often goes by the name of ďaccountability.Ē Yes, weíre going to make school accountable, apparently for the first time. Strange. Iíve always been under the impression that Iím accountable for my work every day, and oddly enough, so is my principal, but the state and federal governments always know better than we do, so who am I to argue? By ďaccountability,Ē I mean mandatory, high-stakes testing. If Lauren doesnít pass her tests, she doesnít graduate from high school. It doesnít matter that she has, through twelve years of academic excellence demonstrated hundreds of times, earned her place as the Valedictorian of her class, if she fails one of the tests by a single point, her twelve years of exemplary academic performance mean nothing. Lauren deserves better than that. We all do.

Oddly enough, teachers like me have a problem with that kind of ďaccountability.Ē Who knows Lauren better, an educrat looking at a few test scores in the state capital, or her teachers who work with her daily and read and grade hundreds of her assignments? Who knows her academic strengths and weaknesses? Who actually cares about her, putting real thought and energy into her intellectual and personal development instead of seeing her as a politically useful bit of data?

Even if we put that bit of common sense aside for a moment, perhaps examining the tests in terms of costs and benefits will help. Who does the testing benefit? Educrats, people who live and die by data, by regulating and constraining the professional lives of teachers, yet who have little or no contact with them or with the day to day reality of the classroom. Educrats love data, for it is the motherís milk of their jobs. It justifies their positions and gives them the power to pick winners and losers.

You might be tempted to think that these test scores benefit everyone, student, teacher, and parent, but they do not. Remember, please that this is not Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average. Such tests are written with a middling level of difficulty. If they werenít, far too many kids would fail them, which really calls into question why we do them in the first place, particularly at such great cost. The truth is that most people are average; thatís what average is, and the tests are written for the average. What does Laurenís score on her English test tell you, particularly compared to the 150 tests and other assignments of all kinds sheíll complete in my class? What does it tell Lauren? It tells me nothing I didnít know by the second week of school. It cannot help you be a better parent; it cannot help her be a better student; it cannot help me be a better teacher.

Some will say that we absolutely need such data so that we can compare and identify failing schools. This is a misrepresentation. There are a great many other means of identifying such things, and they all cost a fraction of the testing fad.

Every school district in the nation has the means available to fail or succeed, and the essential element in that success is the involvement of parents and the community in holding their elected school boards accountable, truly accountable for providing the best educational opportunity possible. Tests cannot and will not do that. Merely paying attention to what is going on in the schools will, and at a tiny fraction of the cost.

But the data reveal that the students of the Smithville School District scored, on average, 4.2 points higher than the students of the Jonestown School District! So what? What that likely means is that Smithville spent far more of their school year drilling for the test than Jonestown, and while Jonestown scored lower on that particular test that day, the Jonestown kids actually had far more time to actually learn something other than how to take that particular test.

But all kids need to do to pass such tests is to be taught the state-mandated standards. Teaching to the test is not necessary! Right. Who is saying that? State education officials? The publishers of the test? Iíve talked to both of them and called them on that whopper. Let me assure you that when you call them on that particular point, they become very angry, irrational, turn an unattractive shade of red, sputter convincingly, and suddenly lose interest in taking further questions. Lauren will do well on this test because I know that I have to drill her on it, and that I must do so in very, very specific ways, many of which do not apply at all to anything else we do in class. In fact, Iíve told her, and the rest of the kids never to write as they had to to pass the test again. Bless their hearts, they do it as theyíve been drilled, and revert back to rational, effective writing thereafter.

The costs will surprise and probably disgust you. Did you know that for only the English test, we dedicate at least nine weeks of the school year--about 25% of the entire year--to passing and taking that single test, to prepare for that one day out of the year? Merely taking all of the required tests wipes out an additional week. In addition, our school has a great reputation for passing those tests, so weíre given the honor of being guinea pigs for vetting future tests for the company the state pays huge amounts of money to develop and produce the tests. That wipes out an additional week of class time, time that we could use to actually learn something, to build bigger, better brains, which is what we should all be primarily focused on doing. All of this means that Laurenís English class will lose about 29% of its class time just to pass one test, one test whose results help us--and her--not at all. Donít worry. I could have told you Laurenís score on the English test within a few points before she took it. Sheíll not only pass, but will be in the highest rank. But you see, I know that because I know Lauren. The educrats know only the data generated by her test.

Be thankful that Lauren isnít in elementary school. Many of those dedicate virtually the entire year to preparing for tests. I have to spend time every year re-teaching my new high school students such elementary concepts as ďnoun,Ē ďverb,Ē ďsimple sentence,Ē and other basics earlier generations mastered by 6th grade.

What would I have done in that time, time forever lost? We could have read and discussed at least three books, written many major assignments requiring real academic effort and higher level thinking skills, completed a variety of smaller assignments to sharpen the kidís writing, reading and thinking skills, and in general, made significant gains in brain development and language skills. Instead, we were forced to concentrate on a single, mediocre test. And rest assured, weíll be very successful. Virtually all of our kids will pass that test--weíve figured out how to teach them to pass it--but they will lose so much more.

I know some people will say that not all teachers are good teachers, and thatís certainly true. But tests donít solve that problem. Aware, professional, competent people do, and they do it most effectively and least expensively on the local level. Some will say that some school districts are bad, and thatís true too, but tests donít solve that problem either, and they donít solve it at exorbitant cost. Even the worst districts can be fixed if the public cares enough to, at the next election, throw out the school board that allows such disasters. Tests canít vote, and if Lauren failed the test, her score couldnít tell us that the district superintendent was taking vendor kickbacks, or teachers were sleeping during class time, or that the kids ran the school, or about any other impediment to learning. Only professional people can know and correct such things.

How much do such things cost? Again, Texas provides something of an answer. It has been recently discovered that Texas will be paying their test provider just under half a billion dollars over the next five years to develop and produce their new test series. Thatís just under half a billon dollars over five years for one, single state. And that doesnít count the salaries and additional expenses of the state education bureaucracy involved. I donít know about you, but a half a billon dollars still sounds like a lot of money to me, especially in our relatively hard economic times. Iím sure the costs elsewhere are similar.

So, once again, I apologize. With what remains of the school year, Iíll do what I can to try to make up for lost time, but Iím fighting a losing battle until this fad, eventually, goes the way of all educational fads before it. I wish I could say that I could do something about this, but Iím just a teacher. What do I know about education?

Thanks, and please let me know if I can be helpful in the future.

Laurenís English Teacher

Posted by MikeM at May 16, 2011 10:18 PM

Nice try.

So you spend 29% of your class year teaching to a test that "Lauren" should be able to pass with no prep? You have to teach high schoolers concepts that previous generations of 6th graders had down cold?

Seems the test is throwing into relief exactly what it was supposed to measure. And you don't like what it is showing. And I send my kids to private school for exactly this reason.


Posted by: James at May 17, 2011 02:10 PM

The system is so messed up that there are no answers. I have had 3 kids that I put through school. Two went to private Catholic school and one went to private secular elementry school then to a "magnet school" that is public, but highly rated. I found that the elementry school was superior in teaching. The others sucked big time. There are multiple issues associated with this. First, the teachers are horrible and can not be replaced in the public sphere. Remember that the public school is highly rated and gets kids into the Ivy leagues (from Shreveport). I can't imagine what the less ranked schools are like. Then we have the subjects. Much of this is pure bull. We need to go to clean, simple concepts, like teaching math and making sure they know it. A few years back I went back to college and took accounting. I was amazed that the teacher had to stop and teach simple math concepts to some freshmen.

Testing like you describe started in China about 3000 years ago. It was a failure and continues to be so. Also, I have a bone to pick with concerns about race preformance. We should be blind to race. If you don't stay under the bell curve, then find a job that does not require as much education. That brings up another concept. What is so important about kids going to college?? The way people act suggest that if you don't go to college, you are a failure. I have a considerable amount of respect for plumber, electricians, mechanics and so on. We need more of them. They make good money. So why not channel kids to trade school? Also, for those kids that are violent or disruptive or sell drugs, why are they in the mainstream? Get them out of the classroom. Finally, get rid of computers. They don't do well for learning and classroom activity.

Posted by: david7134 at May 17, 2011 06:13 PM

This teacher sounds an awful like the NEA teacher of the year. They hate the tests because if their students don't do well it's their fault. They had rather have their kids sing praises to BHO mmm, mmm, mmm. Teachers today need to teach to the test or they won't have anything concrete to teach. With all of the PC crap they put out the test is the only solid subject they have.

Posted by: inspectorudy at May 17, 2011 09:53 PM

Dear inspectorudy:

From your comment--thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, by the way--it might seem that you haven't read much of my work here. Please allow me to clarify: Barack Obama is an international disaster; I am a veteran of the USAF and teach fundamental American values, classical literature, and patriotism as well as English; I believe the NEA is, at best, a socialistic front determined to harm America and would rather leave teaching than have any association with it, and the mere hint of PC idiocy is given the immediate bum's rush from my classroom.

I advocate what works. Mandatory, high-stakes tests don't. The ultimate issue is what we should do with our very limited teaching time. Such tests do nothing but produce data for educrats, the kinds of people your comment seems to decry. Not only that, it wastes huge amounts of instructional time and costs unbelievable amounts of money, money we frankly don't have these days.

In Texas, for example, over the next five years, the taxpayers will spend a bit under a half billion dollars to produce a handful of test scores, once a year, for state and federal educrats. I don't advocate throwing money at education, I advocate effective, inspired teaching of fundamental, worthwhile curriculum. I suspect the Texans would have better ideas about what to do with that money if they knew the facts and had the choice.

And by the way, every teacher which whom I work knows exactly what to teach instead of test drilling, and they all wish they had the time to give kids real educational opportunities, opportunities obliterated in the name of data generation. You don't like big intrusive government? Neither do I. Mandatory, high stakes testing is one of the most egregious examples of big government wasting taxpayer money.

By the way, those who tell you that the tests can be passed with no drilling don't understand the issue. I teach a SAT Preparation class that illustrates the points. The kids who take my class increase their SAT scores from 200-500 points. I don't make them any smarter or download huge amounts of new learning into their brains in a semester. What I do is teach them, very specifically, how to take and do well on a very specific test. The same thing is true for the other tests about which I write.

I suspect you'd be very comfortable in my classroom and with my curriculum. There are hundreds of thousands of other teachers like me out there. Don't believe everything you hear about public schools, and if your local schools are truly faulty, you live there, deal with it. Believe me, educrats seldom listen to teachers, but they almost always fear an aroused and watching public.

Posted by: mikemc at May 17, 2011 10:33 PM

James misses the point and what Mike states: the test reports what Mike or any other teacher of any given student could already report. High stakes test are very expensive ways to proclaim that the vast majority of students have minimal skills in the target subject. Mike does not have to teach to the test because he is a bad teacher; he is required to teach to the test because administrators base their careers on the results, and in the case of Texas schools, the baseline is so abysmally low, and everybody knows it, that only the best scores are now acceptable. It is not acceptable now that a school is recommended--and educators can then teach a novel, analyze an argument, assign and grade closely types of essays that will actually help students in college; rather, the heat is on by administrators to enhance their careers by achieving Exemplary status. It is all about money and careers. Glad you can afford to send your kids to private school; most parents can't and the battle for America's educational soul in in the public schools--and Obama has his kids stashed safely away out of them.

As for inspectorudy, you don't have to be a member of a union to realize all this. You just have to be a teacher, as I am.

Posted by: The Doctor at May 17, 2011 10:37 PM

Dear James:

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. We really do appreciate that here at CY. The problem is that there are very negative unintended consequences of high stakes testing. As I mentioned in my reply to inspectorudy, the issue is that we have little time; what is the best, most cost-effective use of that time? The tests measure nothing of use to educators, students or parents. What they do is take huge amounts of time, at huge cost, from teachers who desperately want to provide the best learning opportunity possible. As I mentioned, virtually all of our kids pass the tests, so by that narrow measure alone, we like what they're showing. What we don't like is the wasted time and opportunity and the insane expense.

Elementary kids aren't learning what they should because the emphasis in those grades is even more fiercely attuned to test drills than in the upper grades. Do you really believe that a single test, or a handful of tests, can tell you anything truly meaningful about anyone? You're smart, yes? Have you ever done poorly on a test? I certainly have. Should that score define you? Did it tell anyone anything useful about you? Do you really want teachers to think that way about their students?

I am not, by any means, against private schooling. In fact, I wish you well and hope that it is providing the full range of educational opportunities your kids--all kids--deserve. But please consider effectiveness and cost, as I must every day. I can administer a great many effective tests and assignments and show them to you. I can show you convincing evidence of your student's progress over the year that I have the honor of teaching them, and all of that will cost a infinitesimal fraction of the administration costs of a single high stakes test. Truly, which evidence of learning and accomplish would be more meaningful to you?

Thanks again!

Posted by: mikemc at May 17, 2011 10:47 PM

Mandatory high stakes testing is only stupid if the test is stupid.

Posted by: Thorien at May 18, 2011 01:23 AM

I have commented before having to proctor test at my sons elementary school, the teachers are having to teach student to pass the standardized test rather than learn. The standardized test are pushed by administrators because they are eying the funding from the federal and state level.

Posted by: Bob at May 18, 2011 02:48 AM

The Doctor - James misses the point and what Mike states: the test reports what Mike or any other teacher of any given student could already report. High stakes test are very expensive ways to proclaim that the vast majority of students have minimal skills in the target subject. Mike does not have to teach to the test because he is a bad teacher; he is required to teach to the test because administrators base their careers on the results

I would amend the above to "what Mike or any other *good* teacher". And I don't to see why trying to game the system, like law schools jockeying for US News and World Report rankings, is a problem of the test. It seems to be a failure of administrative focus.

Mikemc - I can administer a great many effective tests and assignments and show them to you.

Great! Sounds like the portfolios I am given of my kids work. Perhaps you should consider working in an environment that actually values education, rather than bureaucratic empire building and rice bowl defense.

BTW my kids have to take our state's version of the test, and we grumble about the week wasted taking it. But that is all of the attention we give the test, and our school does fine in the rankings.

Reversing the question: Given that not all teachers are as competent and dedicated as Mikemc, what is your alternative to a baseline test that is given to every student? How would that system scale? How would it perform under indifferent and or incompetent teachers? How would I be able to look at all schools in my district and compare them under that system?

I see value in trying to measure outcomes, and I am not sympathetic to an argument that a system is not perfect. I agree that public schools waste time, money, and energy. If only I could capture the resources I am required to put into that failing system and use them in a context that succeeds.



Posted by: James at May 18, 2011 06:49 AM

I have never understood the antipathy against testing. Don't teachers give their own tests? Don't they "teach to the test"? If you are trying to teach your kids that 2+2=4, you want to make sure that the kids get that concept, and the only way to be sure is to give them a test. The test and teaching to the Test should encompass the things that a child needs to know to go on to the next level or to go on to graduation. What is it that the teachers want to focus on rather than the 2+2=4 concept? Maybe putting condoms on cucumbers or gay or union activism? It would seem to me that only various non academic subjects would be what the teachers want to teach rather than 'teach to the test." Without the responsibility of a standardized test, how will we find out that 40% of the people in Detroit can't read?

Posted by: Timothyj at May 18, 2011 09:14 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe one of the underlying points Mike is making is that the mandatory tests he is having to spend 29% of his time prepping the class for are tests that have very little to do with the ACTUAL curriculum he is teaching in the class. Therein is one of the biggest problems of our education system - to the detriment of our kids.

Colorado is and has been facing the same issue. The CSAPS here have many sections, if not all, that bear little if any resemblance to the curriculum being taught in those schools . . . and there are quite a few teachers very frustrated about that yet feel their hands are tied.

In my view - from the local to the national level we should quit going after gimmicks, quit spending money to issue laptops to every student in school from 6th grade on, challenge our teachers to teach the curriculum - let them challenge the students - and then test to what they are actually teaching . . . tests that have nothing to do with what is actually being taught in the classroom are a detriment to our teachers and most especially to our kids.

Posted by: Nina at May 18, 2011 09:16 AM

In Arizona, we have the AIMS tests every year. They were first put in place by Lisa Graham Keegan and ostensibly were to measure the effectiveness of teachers. The test was published and it was found that PhD's couldn't pass the test as written (this included Dr. Keegan). They finally came up with a test that was administered to the students and only about half passed the test. Now, in my graduate research classes, we talked about test validity...namely does a test measure what is purports to measure. With a passing rate of 50% by students it is pretty clear that it doesn't measure what it says it measures. So, the next question is do you re-write the test OR do you teach to the test. Guess which option Arizona took. Teachers are now required to teach to a test that from the outset has been a disaster. And the worst part is there has been no improvement in the actual skills of the students or the graduation rate.

Posted by: PRM at May 18, 2011 02:45 PM

The only people who don't like tests area people who are not prepared for them.

Kind of like how most liberals hate the idea of IQ testing. They are so convinced of their brilliance any test that proves them wrong must be a bogus test. Or any test that proves that their teaching sucks must be a bogus test.

Posted by: smarty at May 18, 2011 10:19 PM

Dear Nina:

You are indeed correct. One of the largest problems with such tests is that it's not merely a matter of a test or handful of tests. Everything schools do, evaluations, public relations, funding and people's careers becomes tied up in a package that ensures that kids will learn little but how to pass the tests. Good teachers know that they're accountable for their performance and have no difficulty at all with that. I love to have my principals in my classroom, but they're so busy doing the paperwork relating to the testing mess, I seldom see them.

I'll devote next week's letter to explaining all of this a bit more completely. Perhaps some folks will read that article a bit more carefully than they did this. I'm more than prepared for our high stakes tests, and virtually every one of my kids will pass them every year. That's not the issue. That has never been the issue. The issue is how much time we--society--really want to devote to that very narrow, insignificant pursuit, particularly considering everything--all the truly meaningful curriculum and skill development--that we cannot do when we're using enormous portions of the year for such testing and everything that goes along with it.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Posted by: mikemc at May 18, 2011 10:49 PM

The only people who do not like tests are people who are unprepared for them.

This is why liberals hate IQ tests. They are so convinced of their intelligence that they feel they must "refudiate" nany test that proves otherwise. NCLB testing for students makes sure that teachers take time out of their busy day of political and social brainwashing to actually teach the subject matter. The tests that most teachers object to the most are the ones that they must take to prove they are Highly Qualified. Nothing like seeing a 20 year teacher fail the writing portion of the Praxis I test multiple times and then get mad at the test, or complain about teaching students to the test.

I taught in Alaska, and I know what I am talking about. Standardized testing puts a leash on activist and incompetent teachers.

Posted by: smarty at May 19, 2011 10:12 AM

Dear Smarty:

Actually, in most states, teachers don't have to take tests to be considered "highly qualified" under NCLB. Generally, the primary qualifying factor is that one have a bachelors in the subject they teach.

I understand that teachers may not pass given tests, but again, the key to passing such tests is commonly knowing precisely what the test makers want and the techniques that will give that to them. The tests you seem to favor all too often do not truly measure knowledge and/or ability.

For example, back in the 1400s when I graduated from college, I had to take the national teacher exams as a graduation requirement. I was born without the math gene. I don't look at equations and see the inherent beauty of the universe. On the other hand, I'm rather good at English and all it entails. I scored slightly more highly on math than English. I suspect that was merely because I was current on math due to my college math requirements, all of which I aced on general scholarship ability. But one might be tempted to think--if one assumes such tests really reveal anything meaningful--that I'm better in math than English. I am certainly not.

I can certainly say without fear of contradiction that a great many standardized tests are rife with errors and written in ways that explain why some of my kids who are among the finest writers and thinkers in my school fail each year while kids who can barely construct a simple sentence pass.

It is the job of principals--the supervisors of teachers--to, as you put it, put "a leash on activist and incompetent teachers." Tests can't do that, and if a supervisor is relying on tests for that purpose, it is they who are incompetent.

Posted by: Mike Mc at May 19, 2011 06:09 PM

but what do you do if the unions and the union controlled school boards neuter the principals? In the name of "fairness", principals can't fire or discipline teachers - if the whole class gets A's the teacher must be wonderful; on the other hand if 25% get C or less the teacher must be terrible.

FCAT's in Florida started because kids were hitting 5th grade NOT ABLE TO READ. And graduating from High School unable to fill out a job application.

Posted by: fiona solis at May 21, 2011 05:57 PM

Dear Fiona Solis:

Thanks for the question/comment! I'll be addressing this in more detail in the not too distant future. Tests can't fix bad union contracts negotiated by weak or corrupt people, and it is something of a fallacy--in most of American anyway--that bad teachers can't be fired. I'll be addressing that too.

Think about the logic: We know that some kids in 5th grade can't read. We know that. So the solution is to mandate a hugely expensive test and all of the wasteful bureaucracy necessary to make, administer and analyze it to tell us that some kids in the 5th grade can't read? Didn't we already know that? And don't we know that a test can't teach kids how to read? If we knew it before the tests were mandated, why can't we teach better and know that they've improved without the tests?

The answer, of course, is that we can do all of this and more without such tests, and more efficiently and for far less money. Teachers know. Parents know. The bonus is less big government intrusion in our lives and lower taxes.

Issues of supervision and management can never be addressed by tests, but only by an engaged and aroused local citizenry who care enough to involve themselves and learn the truth, and that doesn't cost the taxpayers a cent. Saying that school districts in various places aren't working properly--true enough as far as it goes--is not an argument for the huge, expensive bureaucracies that always accompany mandatory testing, and such tests can't fix what the voters ignore.

Thanks again from reading, and I appreciate your comment!

Posted by: Mike Mc at May 21, 2011 07:28 PM