Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute has gone so far as to call the new NAEP scores "heartbreak." The scores on the Nation's Report Card are crappy, ranging from "barely stagnant" to "plunging."
Petrilli and other reformsters have started the business of finding an explanation for this tragic result (more about that in a moment), but while we are thinking about what did make this happen, let's not lose sight of what didn't happen.
Test-driven accountability tied to national standards did not make NAEP scores rise.
Fifteen years of reformsterism has not moved the needle. Well, actually, that's not entirely true-- the NAEP trend has been ever upward since before the Reformster Era, so we could argue that ed reform actually stopped the needle from moving. So, worse than nothing.
But let's not quibble for the moment. The bottom line is still clear: reformsterism is failing. The reform programs, which are in fact our current status quo, are failing. And we all know what reformsters have been telling us, over and over and over again, about the status quo-- when it's not working, it must be changed.
Now, honestly, I'm not all that concerned about the Nation's Report Card. There are many reasons to suspect that the NAEP is not a reliable benchmark of student learning. But it was part of the rules that reformsters wanted to play by, so it's worth noting that by their own rules, reformsters have failed.
The most entertaining part of the failure is the discovery by reformsters that poverty matters!! Who knew? Oh, wait-- everybody except the reformsters, who could not stop themselves from repeatedly criticizing people who wanted to use poverty as an "excuse."
Kevin Welner at the National Education Policy Center has a great piece collecting many of the prominent reformster "NAEPscuses". "Look," they declare. "There are powerful forces outside of schools that have an effect on how students fare on Big Standardized Tests." I try not to use a lot of salty language here at the blog, but is there any better response than, "No, shit, Sherlock."
How much further will reformsters insist on driving us down this same failed road? How deep into the Big Muddy do we need to get before the Big Fool decides to turn around? How many versions of "maybe the critics had a point" do we have to hear before reformsters finally switch to, "we'd like to talk to teachers and professional educators before we finish developing this policy."
It is 2015, and none of the promised benefits of reformster policies have appeared. Colleges are not announcing, "Man, we are swamped with college and career ready freshmen." Charters are not learning brand new educational techniques that can be adopted by public schools. High stakes testing is not bringing social justice to every corner of the nation. Rich, standardy goodness is not ushering in an end to inequity.
And the NAEP scores are not going up.
It will be natural at this point for many classroom teachers to want to engage in a round of "I told you so." But that's really not the important thing. Instead, we need to ask some big questions. How many more education reform failures must we endure, wasting time and money and grinding teachers and schools down? How many more years will we keep pursuing these failed policies? How much longer will we drift helplessly in the wasted waters of a stagnant status quo?
High stakes standardized testing, national standards, and test-based accountability are wasting time, money, effort, and people, while providing not a glimmer of success in return. Let's be done, already.