[Susan notes: This is a nice image: You don't call a plumber to do a surgeon's job. It also works the other way around: You don't call a surgeon to do a plumber's job.]
Submitted to New York Times but not published
Dear Mr. Brooks,
I read your column with regards to public schools and Obama's perspective of education. Over the last seven years, as a teacher, I have seen and experienced the tyrannical, abusive, and destructive side of standardized tests. I teach at a very high performing school, where at one time students came to school with passion for learning. That passion was instilled by their parents and myself. As time has progressed, what I have seen is the degeneration of critical thinking skills, an increase in impatience and discipline problems, and a loss in the internal desire to learn by many of my students. I am a VERY good teacher. I research, apply, and restructure lessons to best suit my pupils. However, they are so tired and beaten down by the myriad of tests that they are crushed by the end of the year. It is NOT MY CHOICE that allows this. It is the ridiculous NCLB law that has guaranteed nothing but misery for them. You stated, "Most importantly, accountability has to be rigorous and relentless.
No Child Left Behind has its problems, but it has ushered in a data revolution, and hard data is the prerequisite for change."
The "hard data" as it stands means very little, and the "relentless" beatings on children are unconscionable. The ultimate failure of your argument is that you believe TEST SCORES TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT CHILDREN KNOW AND ARE ABLE TO DO. You are wrong.
No evidence has ever been produced that shows using standardized tests increases learning. In fact, the opposite is true. Since the inception of NCLB, numerous studies out of the Univ. of Chicago, Rice University, and even the US Dept. of Education (Reading First debacle) have shown that the testing-mired NCLB has had ADVERSE effects on students. Katy Haycock, Roy Romer, and anyone else connected with the Ed in 08 campaign have designs, not on helping kids, but profiting from kids. The facade of defeating "the status quo" of unions for the "children's sake" is pure hogwash. Testing abuse is destroying our public school system, and Susan Neuman's latest comments about NCLB are only the tip of the iceberg of revelation about the profiteering that has resulted from it.
I find it obscene that you support "thorny" accountability practices from those whom you view as successful in a businessman's eyes, yet when it comes to business no doubt you support similar tycoons who have taken huge sums of money, yet have not "performed." In yesterday's AP story, CEO pay chugs up in '07 despite economy it states, "Last year was rocky for the economy and the stock market, making it a useful test of a concept called pay for performance--a term companies use to sell shareholders on the idea CEOs are being paid based on how well the company does...but the AP analysis found that CEO pay rose and fell regardless of the direction of a company's stock price or profits."
The concept of pay for performance is abused even in the business world! And that's just based on numerical figures of sales and such. How much more will children be corrosively affected by the continued use of numbers and percentiles to determine their value in our society? We need to come up with something better than this. Our creativity as a nation is being lost to useless deciles and meaningless "data."
I am all for the American Dream, but your ideas of how to get us there won't cut it. We need to look at other forms of evaluating teachers by IN CLASS observation. Students need science and engineering centered portfolios, emotional intelligence development, and group centered mastery evaluations that are judged by credentialed teaching experts, not politicians or businessmen (you know, you don't call a plumber to do a surgeon's job). It is in this way that students will truly be ready for society.
Joseph Lucido, Educators and Parents Against Test Abuse/CalCARE