Private Schools Seek to Stick to Their Own Standards
- Subject: Private Schools Seek to Stick to Their Own Standards
- From: "Dr. Leo Casey" <LeoCasey@AOL.COM>
- Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 13:41:03 EST
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
As I read Joan's comments, I found fascinating the continuing need to deny
the ways in which social class works in American education. Invariably this
need reduces complex phenomena to single cause formulas which eliminate the
question of social class. To which I have to say, the world don't work that
What was interesting about the _New York Times_ article was that it pointed
the different aspects of the resistance of private schools to the New York
State Regents examinations:
(1) Clearly, standardized examinations have a restrictive effect on
curriculum, as teachers and schools feel a need to "teach to the test" to
ensure that their students are not placed at a disadvantage in a high-stakes
competition. Where quality creative teaching and learning is going on, this a
clear step backward. This is true whether that teaching and learning is going
on in a public school in inner city Brooklyn, a public school in Scarsdale or
a private high school on the upper East Side of Manhattan.
(2) At the same time, standardized tests give a standard of comparison -- a
crude, debased standard, no doubt, but a standard where there previously had
been none -- between different public school districts and between public
schools and various private schools. This standard makes it apparent that
schools that had been relying upon reputations, such as the suburban schools
in Scarsdale and the private schools in Manhattan, are not as peerless as
they would have had those who spent a great deal of money to live there or to
attend them believe. One of the interesting results of last year's Regents 4
grade English Language Arts exams was that the inner city Catholic schools
did no better than the public schools in the same communities (one of those
little facts that never made it into that absurd 20/20 rant), that the
suburban schools were nowhere as high in performance as they would have
liked, and that the wealthy private schools which were not afraid of giving
the test were far from outstanding. When you rely upon folks to spend $20,000
a year and up in tuition, you have a lot to lose from such comparisons.
(3) The bottom line of all of this, the article makes clear, is getting into
a "good college/university," which is the lifeline to middle and upper class
status. If the Regents impose the same set of assessments upon the Catholic
and private schools they charter as public schools (a big 'if' given the
political pressure), I predict that the private schools will simply refuse
the state charters, and rely upon getting their students into these
institutions by reputation alone.
And yes, the result of all of this will be that there will be, as the article
says, a different set of rules for the wealthy -- who are precisely who
attend the private schools. Very few of the parents of the children I taught
in inner city Brooklyn even had a total net income of $20,000, much less that
kind of money to spend simply on the education of one of the children.
To say that this question is all about (1) and not at all about (2) or (3),
is just to be willfully blind to the role social class plays in American
education. And you can only be blind in that way when you look from the top
down. When you look from the bottom up, social class stares you in the eye.
Finally, a few words on a point Joan makes. SHe writes:
>>However, the journalist is unaware of little-understood but growing
motivation for avoiding government-administered standardized tests by
independent schools -- and hopefully by all independent minded teachers,
principals, parents, and high schoo students: the concept of educational
independence from state oversight and control as a founding principle for a
A people is sovereign (ie, rules) only when it comes together and through its
public life and public institutions develops and expresses its will.
Ultimately, a people is sovereign only through a democratic government which
is accountable to it. To talk about a "sovereign people" in the absence of
that people coming together in public life and working on common purposes is
to talk about an impossibility. This will, of necessity, involve the state
and democratic government, although it is not reducible to that alone. The
notion that education should be "free and independent" of democratic
government is a notion not of sovereign people, but of sovereign consumers
United Federation of Teachers
260 Park Avenue South
New York, New York 10010 (212-598-6869)
Power concedes nothing without a demand.
It never has, and it never will.
If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation are men who
want crops without plowing the ground. They want rain without thunder and
lightening. They want the ocean without the roar of its waters.
-- Frederick Douglass --
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