Sunday, November 16, 2014

Administration Wants To Lock in Testing Forever

The US Department of Education this week released the guidelines for states getting ready to fill out those waiver applications. Just add this to my "I Told You So" list regarding last months supposed signal of a change in direction by education leaders and Arne Duncan. Once again, what we're seeing is not so much Change of Direction as it is Jam Foot Down On Gas Pedal.

The new guidelines are essentially like the old guidelines, with a hard line emphasis on basing evaluation of teachers, schools, students, principals, bus drivers, landscaping artists and the guy who delivers paper supplies to the school on standardized tests. It was just a month ago that Duncan was shrugging his shoulders and saying, "Dang. I don't know why the heck everyone got so obsessed with testy stuff. I guess it was all of us, huh?" Now he's back to "You will all eat, breathe, live and die by the tests. Or else."

The feds have tightened up the old sub-group requirements. We all remember this from the NCLB days-- a subgroup of twenty-or-so students (depending on your location) will carry the fate of the entire building in their test scores. Students who belong to subgroups may once again look forward to Special schedules featuring five hours of steady test prep. Congratulations, subgroup students.

The new waivers also feature a super-extended feature which will allow states to exist in whatever extra-legal limbo the waivers create well past President Obama's expiration date. This is a really novel stretch of a really novel idea. There is already some debate about whether the waivers are legal in the first place; now we get to ask if they can be made binding on a subsequent administration. I suppose we're fortunate that they didn't try to lock testing in until the tri-centennial.

Perhaps it's an attempt to weight state's consideration about whether to bother or not ("We could just skip the waiver application, and by the time the feds had gotten around to actually doing anything, we'd already be getting new rules from a new President anyway"). Or it could just be a mark of how deeply committed this administration is to the idea that an untested child is a wasted young life. maybe they're sincerely dedicated to making sure that every test maker gets to sell lots of product every child gets to experience the joys of soulcrushing standardized testing. Maybe they are trying to further confirm that it will make no difference how we cast our votes in 2016.

Or maybe they're just trying to give extra inspiration to movements like the one that rendered testing of seniors in Colorado completely moot. Imagine that-- students smart enough to figure out that the testing is a complete waste of time! I guess we're doing something right.

Whatever the case, this new set of waiver guidelines is great news for testing companies and terrible news for everyone who actually cares about public educations and the students who attend public schools. So, thanks a lot, Department of Education.

1 comment:

  1. None of this shocks me anymore, Peter.

    Once you realize that everything that Duncan, Gates, Broad, the Waltons, et all are doing is merely to facilitate certain individuals' & outside groups' amassing of profits through high stakes testing and elimination / privatization of our public schools --- with the former also helping to bring about the latter... and also the busting of teachers' unions and the consequent elimination of teaching as a profession helping to bring about the latter as well....(After all, you can't have profits---or as much profits---if you have a long-term professional workforce demanding decent salary, job conditions, benefits, retirement, etc)....

    Once you realize all this...

    then every insane, destructive, harmful, crackpot thing they propose and do makes perfect sense, and can be seen without a doubt to have nothing---NUH-THING---to do with improving the education of children, but on advancing the selfish financial interests of the dark forces pushing privatization, discrimination, and social stratification.

    It's funny, though, to watch as those same hypocritical plutocrats would never subject their own children / grandchildren to the toxic nonsense they are forcing upon the children of the middle and working classes... paying whatever it costs to protect their little ones against the "transformative" solutions they claim are the answer to everything.