I watched an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart featuring former Minnesota governor and representative Tim Pawlenty. His interview was interesting to say the least. On The Daily Show, unlike on FOX News shows, Stewart always tries to allow his guest to argue their platform despite their differing view points. He wants them to present a well-thought out argument, so that when he intelligently and courteously debates with them the issues, he can do so without it coming accross as a personal attack on his guest. While discussing his right-wing agenda Pawlenty defended once again NCLB. As I feared would happen in the wake of Bush’s presidency many of his toxic policies would endure into Obama’s term. Policies like his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our declining economy as the bottom 95% of the American society suffer, the rise of infighting between Americans based on unfounded questioning of patriotism based on partisan lines, and the ability to rectify these mistakes by supplying the public with a viable and quality education system. But NCLB is the most detrimental in my opinion because it is attacking the part of the American infrastructure that is the most important, the future of our children.
Using NCLB as a system to hold students and teachers accountable is synonymous with what the Soviets did in order to make their failed communistic-state businesses accountable during Stalin’s reigime. They would set up “measurable parameters” in order to determine the amount of work done based on unrealistic expectations such as weight or size of a product and not the quality of the product they were producing. In turn to make sure their businesses would succeed and meet the standards set, the businesses would alter their product to fit the test. To meet NCLB standards teachers and students are being made to fit the test. This does not test what the kids have learned or what the teachers are teaching, this is set up to give the testers the appearance they are doing their job. The amount of knowledge being taught or learned is not what is being tested. It is a test set up to see how well a student can take a test. So, unless whatever happens to them in their lives matches with what is exactly on the test, the test proves nothing. Has anyone ever taken a standardized test? Tell me when was the last time you experienced situations in real life that were anything like what was being asked on the test. This test was not designed to make anyone in education accountable; it is a test set up to make sure that they fail.
People that are in favor of keeping NCLB have made pretty convincing arguments as to why we should keep it. They seem almost inteligible on the surface. But as you dig deeper you see exactly how wrong and superficial these reasons are. They argue that in life there are choices to make and the test teaches you how to make logical choices, the ability to figure out questions based on future experiences. Wrong. This test isn’t supposed to teach anything. The object of this test is that it is supposed to test what the children have been taught. But it doesn’t. It does not test what the students know. What it does is it tests information that may or may have not been taught based on a folder that contains a prodigious amount of information that could only be known if they were attending an intensive 3-year class. And then it tests it in a way that is confusing in an attempt to trick the students so that they get it wrong even if they do know the right answer. That is not what standardized tests were designed to do.
Another argument is that this test is fair because it is based on the standards that are supposed to be taught in the classroom. And so the reasoning goes, that if the students are being taught these standards, then they should do well on the test. There are 4 major problems with that manner of thinking. The first is foremost has to do withthe people that write the test. They are not part of the education system. they are not teachers nor hav ethey ever set foot in one of the classrooms where the students are being taught, they are people that are creating a test based on their interpretation of what they think the standards mean. The standards are interpreted the same way the constitution is interpretted. And there have been political debates with millions of hours spent debating on the content and meaning of the language in the constitution. And these are people with advanced degrees and years and years of experience. These are our top thinkers debating and deciphering this text. Not test writers who are sitting in a room saying, “Hmm, okay little johnny will be able to answer this question because it kind of resembles what i think this stanard is asking.”
Number two, each state has different standards. Texas, who was used as the flagship for NCLB has the easiest standards of all of the fifty states. California has some of the most convoluted and complex standards. So even if this test was uniform and equal, you are not holding students to a national standard, it based on what the standards that each individual state makes. And in order to get national funding they of course can and do make their standards less and less stringent in order to reach compliance. Which leads to number three, the standards themselves are so redundant and convoluted that it would take 2 to 3 years to teach all the standards that are part of each subject. Go to google and look up the standards for your state in the grade level or subject matter that your kids are in and see for yourselves.
The fourth and biggest problem I see with the test is in the manner in which they compare the test’s results. The test is not a longitudinal study, which is what is should be in order to get a clear an accurate account of student learning. A longitudinal study compares the same students’ scores year after year over the course of their schooling career to measure their growth. This test is a comparative study, meaning that it compares the scores of students in a grade level from one year to different kids in the same grade level the following year. This does not measure what the kids have learned based upon what they learned the year before. They compare the test scores of one class, to the test scores of the class the following year. The students are different, the learning is different, the scores will of course be different. What they learn or are capable of learning can change based on any number of uncontrollable variables. The most obvious being that they are different people. One child is not like another. So what he/she learns cannot be compared to what another student learns. There are so many problems with testing this way I can’t even begin to tell you. Once you start comparing classes from year to year, you really have no chance at seeing any progress that is being made on an individual basis. You are not testing what a student learns, you are testing on how well that particular question can be answered year to year. You have no idea whether or not a child is learning because it is not a longitudinal study. This test is not being used to track the progress of that child’s learning. It is like the test used to measure educational success was created by a group of people that are products of our failed education system.
I find the whole thing very comical. I was part of the system on 3 different levels. I was a student being tested, a teacher in the classroom proctoring the test, and as a creator of the tests, and I can tell you that this is the worst system at measuring any kind of anything. It is reminiscent of the scene in the first Austin Powers movie where Scott Evil is watching his father Dr. Evil put Austin to his death with a “highly complicated, easily escapable death sequence” and then doesn’t watch it. He just is going to “assume it goes to plan.” Then when Scott tries to change his Dad’s mind, while offering an even better strategy for “disposing” of Austin, his dad “shushes” him. I felt like that every time I asked about the seemingly absurdity of the test, and was met with the same sort of opposition. The powers that be will continue to do things the way they have because, one, that is the way it has always been done, and two, to change it now would be to admit that they themselves had made a mistake.
We cannot afford for this 9-year mistake to continue. We cannot let this propagate any longer. Our youth is too important to our future survival for us to absurdly argue and debate about this issue any longer. It is no longer about China and India catching up, it is about us tearing ourselves down to their levels. NCLB is tearing the public education system asunder. I don’t care who made a mistake, which is only part of the problem anyway, we need to fix it and repeal NCLB before it is successful in its intentional assault. That assault was that NCLB was to be an end around on the failed voucher system that Bush tried to push through early in his 1st term as president. It is a classist attack to keep the proletriat or working class poor and stupid so that we can not rise up and have what should be all of ours to share. Bush’s administration on behalf of the rich greedy robber barons that were his true constituents during his reign as president attempted to attack and destroy the public education system. We must not allow this to happen. We have choices to make and althought they might be tough, we need to tighten our belts, pull up our boots, and get it done. But this argument is to be continued in my next post about NCLB.