Such Thing as a Free Breakfast
August 25, 2003
“You can test some of the children all of the time.
You can test all of the children some of the time. But there just ain’t no Lake Woebegone, man!”
Things Abraham Lincoln would say if he were a teacher
in the twenty-first century.
I had the privilege of attending a free breakfast and
school administrator training session put on by Washington State’s Partnership
for Learning---education arm of the Washington [business]
Roundtable---recently. The fruit and bagel were a privilege. It was downhill from there.
Apparently, the Partnership people didn’t study their basics of Lincolnian sociology very well. They and their comrades throughout the nation believe that if we test all the children all the time, label 60% “in need of improvement,” require the next bunch of kids in each of thirty-seven “cells” to decrease that 60% by 10%, wiggle our noses and click our heels together (instead of spending an appropriate amount of money in classrooms), and lay off more than a few teachers while paying for busing to better schools that don’t exist, then, by 2014, 100% of our children will be meeting standards on tests that have yet to be independently studied for validity and reliability for any purpose.
Got that? Scary!
Current testing standards really put the psycho in
psychometrician. As a parent, I refuse to allow my children to take part in the
data gaga insanity. I have twins in
tenth grade. Fortunately, it’s still legal for parents to have a say in the
education of their children in my state, so I’m having a say. I also encourage other parents to use this
state-given opt out right before we lose it. I learned that this will have no
effect on the 95% take the tests or else
requirements in No Child Left Behind, because my children receive zeros, as if
they were tested. Voila! 100% participation! Math for the 21st century.
Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) is administered statewide to virtually every student in the grades tested. During the panel section of the Partnership event, one brave administrator asked why English Language Learners must now be tested whether they have reached English proficiency or not, with a test in English. The excuse: Federal law requires it.
The Washington Education Association is fighting the
WASL passage graduation requirement, which is scheduled for the class of 2008,
and problems with the test in general.
They call for fourteen or fifteen changes. The state board’s committee on the Certificate of Mastery
delivered a very mixed final report.
Any members of the committee who had direct contact with students found
that the WASL is valid and reliable for only some students, so should not be
used as a graduation requirement for all students. The Partnership for Learning and state education department have
a grand solution to all this controversy.
They call it “the hook.” The
hook involves paying Washington teachers to grade the tests so they understand how valid and reliable the
test is. With take-home pay flat lining
while health insurance costs rise again, this may be the only way our teachers
can afford to keep their day jobs.
If we pay teachers to understand that scoring of
essay questions can be objective, will it suddenly be okay for the Business
Roundtable and the federal government to rule local schools? I think not.
The prevailing assumption in our state and national
capitols is that local adults do not know how to educate children and will
never do the right thing without a government wielded hammer. Local adults can’t be trusted. If we allow this takeover of our local
public schools and the lives of our children, we prove this assumption
correct. The Partnership for Learning,
in league now with just about every education association in the state
including the PTA, will be starting up a “Campaign for the Class of 2008” very
soon. This includes mailings to the
homes of every 8th grader in the state, to their teachers and their
schools. It includes “meetings in a
box” for the induction of parents and teachers. It’s time for local adults to
take charge and start standing up against the child abuse being mandated by OUR
government. It’s time to dump the tests
and the free fruit and rolls into the Sound and take back our schools.
Juanita Doyon is the Washington Coordinator for the
Assessment Reform Network, organizer of Mothers Against WASL, a candidate for
Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the author of Not With Our Kids You Don’t! Ten Strategies
to Save Our Schools, Heinemann, 2003.