- Subject: Local Paper
- From: George Sheridan <learn@JPS.NET>
- Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2002 22:08:27 -0800
- Comments: To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
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A column from the Auburn Journal, the leading paper in the county seat of
January 14, 2002
One-size-fits-all approach doesn't work for schools
by Dennis Clifford
Your boss is calling a special meeting to announce that he has come up with
an answer to his problem of falling short of his personal business goals.
You will now be required to take a standardized test designed by people who
know little or nothing about your job and its unique requirements. You
should be particularly excited about the realization that finally your
performance will be compared to everyone who works in your industry without
regard to your particular circumstances.
One of the good things is that you will be given a copy of the test so you
can understand what is expected of you. At the same meeting the boss says
he does want you to attempt to perform to the test but just proceed with
your job as usual.
Not to worry though because we are going to require that every political
bureaucrat, from school trustee to the president of the United States take
a standardized test as well. Just think of it, all our problems will be
solved at last.
Yes, I am standing on my soapbox again. Since President Bush signed his
bill calling for all states to take standardized tests, my penchant for a
quality education process was aroused. Once again we have a case where
legislators are attempting to dictate to classroom teachers without talking
to the teachers first.
I understand that state boards of education probably have had their input
but that, in my estimation, only compounds the problem. One of my fellow
school board trustees, Carl Wagner, placed emphasis on what is really
important in the education of children. He said on many occasions that, ?We
do not need trustees, or administrators, or buildings, or even books. The
one thing necessary, is the teacher.?
Standardized tests are, supposedly, the easy answer to a very complex
problem. The process of education is constantly under stress from every
quarter. One model, standard, or gauge of mental accumulation of knowledge
is to be used to determine whether or not a teacher is doing his or her
job. Why shouldn't we all be subject to this type of yardstick? How can we
believe that a one-size-fits-all evaluation provides a reliable source of
Can anyone remember when our children were being compared to Japanese
children in the education process? Everything we did was wrong and they
were right. We had a Japanese exchange student, Yasko, in our home for a
year and she gave us an interesting picture of schooling in Japan.
She told us that she went to regular school six days a week and then went
to English language school five days a week as well. It should be no
surprise that they were beating us so bad, they had an 11-day week to work
with. Our poor kids only had seven days a week and then they only went to
school five of them. Obviously, Yasko attended two schools on most days.
She did tell us that the Japanese did not provide a scholastic education
for every child in Japan. They offered trade schools and for some children
they provided little or no education at all. She told us many of the
children of Philippine emigrant workers would not receive any schooling.
Why do we not hear any more discussion of the Japanese model of education?
It is because it has not lived up to its promise that they would take over
Americans, for the most part, believe that every individual child should
receive the best education possible. And yet we fail to allow teachers to
teach. We need to de-politicize the teaching process.
We need to get the politicians out of the classroom and back into an
environment where they are more comfortable ? at a restaurant with their
favorite lobbyist. I don't know but I am going to research to see how many
state legislators were classroom teachers before they surrendered
themselves for our best children?s interests. I think the lawyers still
have an edge in the legislature.
I wonder how First Lady, Laura Bush, feels about standardized testing,
since she was a teacher? President Bush is obviously listening to somebody
but is it the person best able to tell him what is going on, the classroom
I was a school board member for 13 years and I always found it challenging
that the state Board of Education would convince the Legislature to develop
a new process or program every couple of years. Then they would force local
boards to implement it in the schools. This was usually the result of the
latest testing results. Never mind that we were still in the process of
implementing the third year of their last great reform.
We need to declare a moratorium on any law regarding educational process
for a period of at least five years ? a sort of cooling-off period that
will allow classroom environments to stabilize.
Then we need to develop a radical new approach ? listen to our teachers.
Talk to the persons closest to the process. Most important, we shouldn't
allow the results to be filtered through the state school board.
Incorporate parental input and even talk to students for they might have
something worthwhile to say.
Too many cooks spoil the broth and that can be a real problem. Education
should not be a political football as it is too serious a game to lose. We
need to stop the education game and give our children our very best.
You might even say, our future depends on it.
Dennis Clifford?s column appears in the Auburn Journal on Tuesdays.
1030 High Street · P.O. Box 5910
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