True education reform shouldn't mean more testing
Ohanian Comment: Laura Manuel explains Race to the Top in a way that parents and other community members can understand, pointing out that parents don't use the competition so praised by Arne Duncan and Crew with their children. Nor should they want teachers to use it. Instead, school should be a nurturing place.
Spread Laura's message to your own local papers.
by Laura Manuel
Roy Romer and Richard Lamm wrote a guest column promoting what they characterized as Ă˘€śmeaningful education reform.Ă˘€ť Policy makers were urged to apply for the millions of dollars that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is proposing in the Race to the Top educational reform plan.
The name is at least appropriate: When you think of race events, you think of winners, losers and competition. Race to the Top is competitive and could make losers of our community.
We'd be on the losing end of these competitions because socio-economic status is strongly correlated to test scores. Parental income, not teacher competence, is the greatest predictor of student achievement. Race to the Top seeks to connect teacher pay to test scores. I teach college, not high school, but I'd wager that if I was given a class at Cherry Creek High School, I'd be a winning teacher in my first year. If teacher pay ever becomes connected to test scores, District 6 will definitely become everyone's last choice for employment. (If you'd like to see other reasons, read Ed Rogers' guest column on Nov. 29.)
One unchallenged assumption of our education system under standardized testing is that competition is a good thing. This seems to be automatically accepted.
This ideology assumes that because competition is good for corporations, it's somehow good for people. If one truly believes competition is always good, try introducing it into your family. Let the kids compete for attention, love and resources. If you reject that notion, then maybe you actually think there is a place for accepting a child as they are, with their individual needs and abilities.
We at the Coalition for Better Education believe it is important to extend that humane treatment to the school system, where the teacher-student bond should be modeled on the parent-child bond. Children should be nurtured and protected from harsh treatment rather than thrown into the race before they've had a chance to develop their strengths.
Race to the Top involves ever more standardized testing, and thus a widening disconnect between teachers and their charges. All this data will tell us what we already know Ă˘€” that poverty exacts a crushing price in education.
As pointed out by Lamm and Romer, many educators continue to resist changes in the educational system. This is because we've seen supposed educational reforms increase two of the very things they were designed to prevent: the dropout rate and low college attendance rates. Our opposition to these reforms is because they are not reforms at all but costly measuring systems that have only increased mediocrity. An examination of schools in Florida or Texas will uncover how they achieved their Ă˘€śmiraculousĂ˘€ť test scores: by increased dropout rates. At this time, half of Florida schools graduate less than half of the students originally enrolled.
So let's not Race to the Top. Instead of endless and expensive testing, let's attempt true reform that allows students to train before they have to race.
Laura Manuel, Ph.D., is a professor at Front Range Community College and is the vice president and treasurer of The Coalition for Better Education Inc., www.thecbe.org.
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