Head, Tail, or Middle? Does It Matter Anymore?
If worthless men sometimes are at the head of affairs, it is I believe because worthless men are at the tail end and the middle. – John Adams
So, is this where we are? When a school administrator can look a group of teachers in the eye and tell them their job is to collect data over teaching children, this is indeed where we are. Well, okay, what he actually said was that despite the fact that they were excellent teachers, they weren’t all teaching the same way. Because of that, data about their teaching couldn’t be collected. When a teacher in the audience countered with “My job is to teach children, not collect data,” the administrator’s response was “No!”
This then is the outcome of the intense pressure of “Test and Punish.” In the beginning, some of us really thought it was about the children–helping children who weren’t getting the help they needed get it. And maybe for some involved in developing it, it really was that. But somewhere along the way, the object became testing and data, so this is where we are. The small group of individuals spearheading this thrust are doing it for their own reasons, mostly money. I won’t rehearse here the well-documented litany of the various ways these people profit from testing your children over and over and over and over. I am focusing on how this thirst for data has permeated the administration of even the smallest school districts in our country. The event cited above occurred at a very rural school. Administrators like this one have swallowed hook, line, and sinker, the false mantra that data is the savior of our school systems. Either that, or they mouth it in for fear for their jobs. Teachers who know this is inherently wrong, look at each other as if to say, “Hear we go again–another education pendulum swing.” Unfortunately, this “pendulum” is not like all the others. This one is in the process of changing everything we know public education to be and everything it has been for most of our country’s history.
Sadly, the anticipated reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESSA) does not change any of this. If anything, it exacerbates it. This 1,061 page document which is being pushed through Congress without time for reasonable debate, leaves the “Test and Punish” System fully in place. It gives lip-service to state control of education, while giving the federal Secretary of Education essential veto power over how the states implement testing and accountability. States are still required to test 95% of their students, and the document leaves the issue of parental right of opt-out cloudy, and according to Mercedes Schneider, ripe for law suits. Some of the sections promote charters, while others smooth the way for future teachers to bypass traditional teacher education. In the end it is about continuing the standardization of children and their teachers and is designed, perhaps intentionally, to deepen the re-segregation of American schools. This is a bill that keeps corporate reform in place, despite a rising tide of evidence that the American people are done with it. How far will we allow it to go? HOW FAR WILL WE ALLOW IT TO GO?
Or was John Adams right?