I just read an article about efforts by China’s education ministry to prevent cheating on its college university entrance exam, which over 9 million students take to try to win one of just over 7 million spots in the country’s colleges. Education officials, who seem to recognize that the pressure students feel to do well on such an important test invites cheating, imposed a ban on clothing with metal parts–including bras–to try to get a handle on “wireless cheating devices.” For realsies.
While most students in the United States aren’t paraded through metal detectors before they sit for exams, many do feel the same sort of pressure to perform well on high-stakes tests that drives their Chinese counterparts to cheat with the help of a strategically-wired undergarment.
It’s no secret that even the highest-achieving students cheat. Take, for example, the “large-scale cheating” incident that was discovered at Harvard in 2012; it’s evidence that even Ivy-Leaguers, who some assume are models of academic integrity, resort to dishonest and immoral behavior when they feel enough pressure. Likewise, administrators and teacher in Atlanta and Washington DC, under enormous pressure from reformers to raise test scores and with their jobs on the line, engaged in unethical behavior that called their morality into question.
Knowing that high-stakes testing–along with pressure from parents, administrators, reformers, or anyone else who has a vested interest in the results–opens the door for cheating, why are we forcing our students to test more and more each year? Is it so we can catch public-school cheaters and hang them on the figurative gallows as evidence that public schools don’t work?
The biggest problem is that reformers like Michelle Rhee claim that if something isn’t measurable, it’s not worth learning. This belief is at the heart of her philosophy, which dictates that students should all be able to learn the same set of skills, and whether or not they actually learn these skills is a direct reflection on their teachers. What’s worse is that people who have no understanding of public education agree with her.
But in this kind of testing culture, where the push seems to be to destroy public schools in favor of for-profit charters, a community in Connecticut is considering a Montessori charter school. (What?!) Yes, you heard that right: Montessori advocates, who do not believe in testing students AT ALL (ever), believe that their method “can trump poverty,” a key indicator in student achievement.
Isn’t this, like, a super-scary dilemma for a reformer? (If you are a reformer and you are reading this, do you feel sick?) What’s a reformer to do? Ruin public schools (YESSSS!) in favor of a charter school (YESSSSSSS!) that doesn’t measure students by any type of test at all (NOOOOOOOOOO! WTF!)? What a conundrum!
YES, this is an isolated example of a community’s push to use taxpayer dollars for a very specialized (Montessori) school; but could it be an indicator that the idea of no testing AT ALL will become increasingly appealing as a result of the current high-stakes-testing climate? Or maybe people just like that nobody cares what kind of bra one wears at a Montessori school.