Re: Schmidt and Klonsky
- Subject: Re: Schmidt and Klonsky
- From: Michael Klonsky <mklo@MEDIAONE.NET>
- Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 19:17:34 -0500
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
I certainly didn't want to create a firestorm. The issues around standardized and
high stakes testing are way more important than any personal antagonisms between
George Schmidt and myself. Nor do I need or want anyone to mediate for me or list
the points where I'm correct or incorrect. I have been involved in the
political and educational wars for more than 30 years. My dad went to prison
during the McCarthy period and so I know red-baiting (even from the left) when I
see it and feel a need to respond. Thanks for taking a stand on that.
As to the testing litmus test-- I am and have long been openly (card-carrying?)
critical of standardized testing and the testing madness that now abounds in
Chicago and other cities. The present conservative wave of "accountability " is
in large part, an assault on public schools, teachers and students. Using a lot
of your materials , I teach my graduate students how our system of
norm-referenced tests is set up to automatically fail half the kids.We are now
and always have experienced testing in Chicago as a massive sorting mechanism
that determines from an early age, who will survive in this system and who won't.
I have been a part of the school reform movement in Chicago since the days of
Mayor Washington and have always viewed school reform (pardon me for using those
words George) as part of the overall struggle for freedom and equality. You
mention my role in Catalyst--I haven't written for Catalyst since 1996. I was
president of the editorial board and not a writer for the past 4 years. Therefore
my "silence" was for obvious reasons. As co-director (with Bill Ayers) of the
Small Schools Workshop, my work for the past 9 years has been mainly inside of
schools--not in the area of policy. Most of my public speaking has been about
school restructuring. Plus, I have never seen testing as THE issue, the way that
you do. To me, it's part of the struggle of the community to control their lives
and the conditions for their children. Standards and testing for me, have to be
dealt with in the context of the school community and what it values most for its
kids. I speak about a multitude of issues in the context of comprehensive school
change including testing. My views of the testing madness have been quoted in the
Sun-Times and reported live on the Chicago Tonight TV show and most recently in
an hour-long radio show "Voices from Wingspread."
The Small Schools Workshop has been in struggles to help turn-around failing (by
any standard) high schools, which most of school reformers won't touch with a
10-foot pole. Some even defend these schools with their 80% drop out rates and
consider all efforts to radically transform them as a conspiracy from the right.
We have found that many parents in these schools want their kids to do well on
tests. After a talk I gave at Austin High School in 1994, criticizing the testing
madness, the noted African-American educator Barbara Sizemore (who became
totally focused on getting minority kids up to scale on standardized tests) asked
me:: "Can our kids get into your university without being able to score well on a
standardized test?" No, I admitted. "What about getting a job in the post
office, fire department or other areas of the service economy? No. Then she
asked: "How do your kids do on tests" Very well, I admitted. "Aha!" she
exclaimed. "So it's just our kids you don't want to teach to the test." I think
I responded pretty well to that charge, arguing that I wanted the kids to be able
to do well on any test--but wanted much more. But the point for me was that
testing is only one part of an American apartieid system of schooling. Many in
the community now see standards as a way to drive equity. Others see them as a
way to force a majority white teacher force to at least deliver a minimum
curriculum to other people's children.
I don't think it's fair or reasonable to expect me to be the flag-bearer on
standardized tests.After all, I haven't seen you out front on small schools--nor
do I expect to. It's clear that so much of the talk on testing is embedded in
deeper issues. I hope we can talk about it as a multi-layered issue that
involves strategies and tactics of school change and not personal attacks. Thanks
again Monty for your thoughtful response.
Monty Neill wrote:
> Well, we may have a firestorm of personal/political issues arising here,
> rooted (as far as I can tell) in further back political issues but continuing
> till today.
> I want to strongly ask that they and the rest of us not engage in battling
> ancient history, and to keep disagreements civil (even if we don;t personally
> like one another).
> I am leaving for the Detroit conference and won't be checking email till next
> Weds at the earliest, and then will probably have to simply skip many of the
> hundreds that will await my return.
> I do want to weigh in on a few things:
> 1) I don't always agree with George but believe he has made an important
> contribution to the list and our struggles.
> 2) I don't think George should have referred to Mike's background as he did
> as it does seem red-baiting.
> 3) My reading of Mike's post is he makes as clear as has George his personal
> dislike. So be it, but let's keep to the issues of the day, please.
> 4) I saw Mike quoted as criticizing George and Substance printing of the CASE
> tests -- perhaps this was a misquote, or Mike has changed his mind as he now
> supports George against the attacks (Mike does say he disagrees with the
> tactics, which perhaps will make him a minority on this list, I disagree with
> Mike, but those tactics are a legitimate topic of debate).
> 4) I am pleased to see Mike speaking out against the testing in Chicago. The
> issue has been raised (and not only by George) by advocates with whom I work
> that most academics (such as but by not means only Mike) have not been
> visible on this issue. In his work with Catalyst, I have not seen Mike as a
> strong advocate on this issue, but that can and I hope will change. Perhaps
> the academics in general are more visible and public and strong than I have
> been informed. If not, I hope they will be -- and I would much prefer to
> focus on the future.
> Again, I hope we can continue our discussions and debates by focusing on the
> present and the concrete issues of testing, schooling and equity. And I hope
> I have not flamed any fires. Personal animosities, long negative histories,
> etc. cannot be waved away -- but this issue brings together people with those
> histories. We face it, for example, in our work in Boston. We need to do what
> we can to get past it, because it can damage us, as it has in some ways in
> Boston, I think.
> Monty Neill
> To unsubscribe from the ARN-L list, send command SIGNOFF ARN-L
> to LISTSERV@LISTS.CUA.EDU.
To unsubscribe from the ARN-L list, send command SIGNOFF ARN-L
Post a Message to arn-l: