According to Arne Duncan and his friends in the reform movement, America’s public schools are failing their children. And the best way to fix this problem and instill a real love of learning in America’s kids, Duncan and his friends say, is to require districts—many of which are already financially strapped because of billions of dollars in funding cuts—to spend millions of dollars to test, test, and test their kids.
Duncan, who has forced the nation’s public schools into a testing frenzy without determining whether or not doing so is even a good idea, is a tireless cheerleader for the clinical culture he pushes—even as recently-released test scores sent the message that about 70% of NYC children and their teachers are failures. Duncan has ignored the concerns of millions of educators who say that overtesting kills students’ love of learning, narrows schools’ programs of studies, and results in canned curricula– and he does not care that despite claims that testing helps teachers drive instruction, teachers cannot learn from tests or student responses they’re not allowed to see (and which aren’t available until the summer after the tests are administered—when students are no longer in the same teacher’s class).
In a recent effort to help adults understand the ridiculousness of the testing culture Duncan promotes, Rhode Island’s Providence Student Union invited lawmakers, engineers, reporters, scientists, and other professionals to take a shortened version of the state’s NECAP exam. Once the tests were scored, the Providence Student Union released a statement revealing that 60% of the test-takers would have been deemed “substantially below proficient” and at risk of not being eligible for a high school diploma.
Even Charlotte Danielson, whose “Framework for Teaching” is now being used all over the country to evaluate teachers, says that the current testing movement is a “train wreck” waiting to happen:
“The test items I’ve seen that have been released so far are extremely challenging. If I had to take a test that was entirely comprised of items like that, I’m not sure that I would pass it—and I’ve got a bunch of degrees.”
So, Mr. Duncan, how about you (and Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, John King, and anyone else who advocates for the same misuse of standardized testing that you do) take the tests you claim are so good for kids—and then release your results?
Here are the rules:
- You are not to bring smartphones, electronic devices, dictionaries, study aides, food, or drinks into the testing room.
- If you need to erase an answer, make sure you do so thoroughly, because they machine scoring your test may pick up on erasures.
- If you record your answers in the wrong section of your answer booklet, you must alert your proctor—who must then alert the testing coordinator.
- If you feel ill and need to leave the room—or otherwise cause a disturbance—your testing coordinator will be required to fill out an incident report.
- You may not look at any section of the exam other than the one on which you are instructed to work. Doing so will invalidate your test.
- You may not ask questions about the content of the exam.
- After each section of the test, you may stand up and stretch for approximately one minute, but you may not talk.
- When you are finished the exam, you may not discuss it with your peers, your teachers, or your parents. All information about the exam must be kept confidential.
- Once your test is scored—typically within a few months—you will receive notification of your score in the mail. If your score doesn’t seem right to you, especially if your test was created and scored by Pearson or McGraw Hill, have have someone question company—and fast.
- You will never see this exam again, and your teachers will not see it, so none of you will know how or why you earned the score you did.
We will wait anxiously to learn of your results. Maybe once your scores are released you’ll finally understand what educators and parents all over the country have been telling you:
STOP. You have reached the end of the testing movement that is destroying public education in America. Please put down your pencil and close your booklet.