Monday, August 17, 2015

Sharpening the Divide with Distractions

So, another set of Common Core State test scores have arrived.  And, what do we have to show for it?  Supposedly, there have been modest improvements, but with a much higher percentage of students opting out at the State level, actually one in five.  So, escalation occurs.  Threats of possible retaliation in the form of withheld funding--for those who cannot escape Core testing by opting for expensive private academies.  So, much for listening to the voice of the people.  "Progress" is "progress."  Let's not ask to what degree cut scores account for "progress"  Let's not ask about the cost of this minuscule "progress."

When all is said and done, millions upon millions of dollars will have been spent in the name of ed. "reform" with little to no dividends, only the diversion of attention and resources from more important issues to asinine test preparation.  The divide will only have sharpened.

Has all this evaluating made for better teachers?  It seems it's just driven some of the best from the profession.  It's driven others to cheating.  It's compromised integrity.  Likely, it's made many teachers wonder if they can hold on until retirement.  Year after year, there is a new formula for academic witch-hunting.  The formula won't be good enough, no matter how bad the junk science, unless it takes down a high enough percent of teachers.  Anything less and in the Governor's words, it's "Baloney!"

Under this new system, administrators run from one teacher's room to the next and back again, again and again and again.  They lose precious time over-observing everyone, from the finest to the neediest teacher.  To hell with the day-to-day tasks of administrating!  Were there ever any?  Write report, after report, after report.  Focus on boxes.  You might possibly miss the forest for the trees, but more than likely you just spend a lot more time to confirm predetermined conclusions.  In a fifteen or twenty minute visit, take a guess at what happened for the rest of the period.  Does it matter if you're wrong!  The whole thing is junk science anyway!

Does this new focus on testing make teachers show up to work psyched to prep?  When it comes time to pinning test scores on individual teachers, it is no coincidence the least effective work with the neediest kids.  The best teachers get driven further from the neediest classrooms.  Self-preservation is a basic instinct.  Who wants to be a martyr, especially one with a family?  The educational divide widens.

The Common Core hasn't made students smarter.  It's further sharpened the divide.  By using one narrow set of parameters, fewer kids will be able to make sense of their education.  Many will be driven away in disgust.  Kids with other interests and other talents (clearly perceptible to their teachers) are assured that they are failures in life while test makers profit by soaking up precious resources.  The divide is sharpened between those who can and those who cannot or those who will not.

While the streets are on fire (with few people begging for more tests) and terrorism grows, too many find domestic comfort in diverting attention to an attack upon teachers.  After all, someone must be blamed for low test scores on highly dubious tests.  The rise and fall of civilization depends upon standardized test scores.  Study your history!

How far have we come in more than a decade?  Have charter schools improved education or have the most "successful" effectively separated and sorted kids, flooding resources towards those who can and starving those who cannot.  Goodbye to music and art and everything that makes life beautiful!  While some peddle test prep to pump out higher scores, some charters strike at the heart of unionism.  Teaching is de-professionalized.  Simultaneously, minorities are driven further away from it.  Will teaching continue to be a middle-class profession by which one can gain security to raise a family?  Will it equally welcome people of all backgrounds to teach children of all backgrounds?  Have charters and all this ed. "reform" solved societal inequities or just further sharpened the divide?  When so many of the elite of the educational "reform" movement are among the societal few who have the means to opt their children out of this test-crazed system and build safe bridges to success via ritzy private academies, some answers are obvious.

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