The political potency of the testing issue shows no signs of abating. Once Congress shelved President Clinton's plan for national reading and math tests, White House support shifted to Goals 2000, a plan calling for withholding federal funds for disadvantaged children from states that don't adopt such policies as denying third graders promotion and twelfth graders a diploma on the basis of a single standardized test. And Republican presidential front-runner George W. Bush recently took a page from Soviet tank tactics as taught at the Frunze Academy--feed your winners and starve your losers--when he pledged to take public funds from schools whose students test poorly.
The "standards" agenda has been refined at school restructuring meetings hosted by such CEOs as IBM chief Lou Gerstner and attended by the nation's governors, other corporate executives and representatives of the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Teachers have been conspicuously absent from these meetings. But educrats in twenty states have duly collected their federal money by instituting tough tests.
New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills announced that he didn't think fourth graders would do well on the January reading exam but said that subjecting 9-year-olds to tests they can't pass is "one of the strategies to change things for the better." (The 3,000 kids in New York City who were mistakenly sent to summer school because of a scoring error by CTB/McGraw Hill might not agree.) Likewise, when 98 percent of the schools in Virginia flunked the new state test, Kirk Schroder, president of the state board of education, announced that he is confident their testing program will become "a national model for excellence in measuring student achievement."
Standardized tests have been familiar fare in schools for decades. But until recently, teachers and parents used test results as one gauge among many of a child's progress. A child's promotion (or a school's survival) did not depend on the results of one test written by a committee accountable to no one; teachers taught the basics but were free to shape the curriculum around their students' diverse needs and interests. Frustrated parents are beginning to rebel against the new regime. In Massachusetts, parents made headlines in May by keeping their children home for two weeks when the tests were being given. Parents in Ohio, California and Oregon did likewise. In early June, Wisconsin legislators responded to parent pressure and voted to kill the new $10.1 million high school graduation test, the hallmark of Governor Tommy Thompson's education agenda. The students, teachers and parents with the most to gain--or lose--from public education can tell the difference between real standards and standardization.
FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.