The recent resignation of Joe Klein as head of New York City schools has finally made people closely examine the BS this man and Mayor Bloomberg have been spouting about the city’s school system. Joe, who has never taught a day in his life, is convinced forcing teachers and students to devote their days to practicising passing standardized tests will lead to “success in education.” However, the evidence is overwhelming that while New York City students do better on their their tests, when given national or state Regents exams, their scores drop. As Marc Epstein, recently put it in a newspaper article: “the feel good story of rising student scores over the past several years is largely an illusion produced by dumbed – down tests.”
However, the issue is not really rising or falling test scores. The issue is WHAT IS BEING TESTED? I have taught 12,000 teachers, and I still teach those in schools. The story from the front lines of schools is that teachers devote their time making students practice and practice how to pass a test. Literature is disappearing from our schools, teaching social studies is a once a week activity in most elementary schools. We are producing the most historically ignorant generation in our history.
Barack Obama appointed his basket-ball buddy, Arne Duncan to be Secretary of Education. Duncan has never taught although his business experience led to him heading Chicago schools. Of course, there is no evidence of increased creative and critical thinking, but, the graduation rate has risen so that today in Chicago or New York about 60% of kids graduate from high school. Let me assure anyone reading these words that the children of Obama and Duncan who attend private schools are reading great literature and examining historical issues, they will not be spending their time practicing for tests.
The test driven movement –which Barack Obama supports– has failed to do the job of educating children to become critical and creative thinking people. It is time for a change. The economist John Maynard Keynes was once reprimanded for changing what he wrote about an economic issue. He responded: “when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”