I AM MAD AS HELL!
Atlanta teachers were sentenced to jail for (racketeering) cheating while administering test to school children.
Meanwhile Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld walk free after four thousand American military lives were lost in their contrived war; David Petraeus got off with a hand slap after disclosing classified military information to his girlfriend; and CEO’s of major financial corporations got raises after bringing the world economy to collapse… and the list goes on.
If you want to know what is wrong with education ask a teacher not a politician. And as a former teacher and principal I will tell you that Standards and Standardized Testing is political bullshit.
I was hired as the principal for three schools in two remote Alaskan Native villager that were connected by a three mile road.
When I arrived I found that the previous year, out of a senior class of ten, only two students had graduated. This means that after spending twelve years in school, eight children were without a high school diploma: they could not join the military, they were not eligible for very basic jobs requiring a high school diploma and many trade schools were closed to them. In other words, we had declared three strikes on these children at the beginning of their adult lives.
The problem was not the children, the problem was the testing. In order to graduate the students were required to pass a ‘one size fits all’ Standardized Test.
To understand why these normal intelligent children could not pass the test we have to look at the culture of the village where they were raised.
The older people in the village spoke Yu’pik (Eskimo) language; there was a strong Russian influence in the village from its earliest Caucasian settlers – including a Russian Orthodox Church; and then there was the English component that was brought to the village by decades of missionaries and school teachers that demanded that students converse only in English. The results is a bastardized language known as Village English.
As an example of Standardized Testing bias: On the senior’s standardized test the students were required to write an extensive essay from a choice of subjects using college-level English, correct grammar and punctuation – a spoken language and context not normal in the village: village children speak and think in the village vernacular.
In the other disciplines many of the names, context, and descriptions were foreign to the experiences and the lives of these children.
Our Native children came from a subsistence society where their main connection to the outside world was TV and the internet. The parents of these children hunted and fished and subsisted - traveling the rivers and driving ATV's , snowmobiles and dog sleds across the tundra.
Standardized test are written for children raised in an affluent urban society. They are culturally biased to that society - and yet all children are expected to perform to that standard.
When I took over I reorganized the school day, adjusting to allow teacher training every Wednesday from one to four. We discontinued teaching the normal scope and sequence recommended by the school text and instead downloaded the State Standards, breaking them up into a thirty-six week curriculum's. Each Wednesday the teachers would meet and discuss how they could cooperatively teach across the standards golds for that week to insure student attainment.
Rather than teaching the students to become productive members of their society we taught to the test to insure that no students would be left behind because of “No Child Left Behind” testing of a ‘one size fits all’ Standardized Test.
We were professional educators and cheating on the test was not an option, but revamping the curriculum to teach to the test resulted in eight of eleven students graduating that year – nine of twelve the next year and all but one the third year. I still grieve over the seven students that did not graduate during my tenure.
School failure is political - in part driven by lobbyist for testing companies that influence politicians who have never taught a day in a public school in their lives. The government Department of Education is run and staffed by teachers from high attaining schools from affluent communities – with only experience from that cultural norm.
There is no ‘standard’ for a child. Each child should advance to his or her potential and not be held to a comparison with children from the highest achieving sector of our society.
Cultural and economic diversity is the norm. There is no – and should be no ‘standard.’
Education should be left to the professional educators who, unlike Senators and Congress persons, are required to pass a test and constantly recertify to retain their credentials.
Somewhere along the line we have forgotten that the purpose of school is not to identify and punish undeserving children, but to assist each child, within his or her abilities, to become a productive member of society,
Pulling the certifications for the Atlanta teachers and administrators would have been a reasonable punishment; but sentencing these teachers to jail is crime in itself.