Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What were they thinking?

Fifteen years ago there was No Child Left Behind and its required annual testing that was supposed to  improve the quality of high school graduates and make a high school diploma really mean something.   State testing results were all over the map regarding how proficient students were in the basic academic subjects.  Some states looked great, but the tests were easy.   Other states not so great, but the tests were harder.  The governors rebelled.  After all education is one of the biggies for governors' bragging rights.
So five years ago, the state governors got together with the state commissioners of education and created Common Core.  This curriculum-not a test- would be an almost national commitment to a curriculum.  All but five states signed on.  Every curriculum needs a test (or not).  So two consortia were born.  Smart Balance does most of the center of the country and a few costal states. Partnership for Assessment for College and Careers (PARCC) does most of the costal states.   States are dropping out of these testing program like innocents leaving the mideast war zones.   The latest to vote is Maine which says it wants out of Smart Balance.   Maryland, that does not have a formalized method for families to opt out, has the largest rate of opt out by absence of any state in the union.
So here we are, 15 years after NCLB and 5 years after Common Core.  Certainly education results have improved dramatically with these great and VERY expensive programs.  Fifteen years ago before NCLB, the United States ranked 28th in the world in student achievement.  We added Common Core and now we are going somewhere.   Indeed the new rankings were recently released.  After billions of dollars spent on curriculum alignment and test creation, millions of tortured children taking tests and thousands of teachers wrestling with their consciences on the purpose of the whole mess... Drum roll please!!   The United States of American now  ranks 28th among the nations of the world.  Yep, that was not a typo.   No change whatsoever in relative ranking.
What exactly is the point of this whole thing?  Beats me.
An organization called Achieve which is aligned with Common Core has issued a report that indicates the gaps between state testing and the Common Core testing.   New York is best with only a 5% gap, Georgia is the worst with a 60% gap.  No wonder those educators were having to cheat on the national tests.
Problem is no one is asking the question of why are we testing at all.  And what are we testing.   Other testing shows our kids know next to nothing about how our government runs and these kids will be voters in a few years.  Educators, please get up off your very weak knees and take control of your profession and our kids' lives.   We are letting politicians run education and you know what a mess they have made out of government.

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