What has been most critical--and most threatening to the phalanx of teachers' unions and self-esteem gurus that defend the status quo--has been the steady increase in testing. Objectors of school reform have fought these measures hard, using every type of argument imaginable to try to scuttle and prevent reform. But, like the old Soviet bloc, a little glasnost will go a long way. The smallest beams of light on the system will be devastating. As parents and the public realize that it is their local school and their kids who are falling behind, the system will change. As the "report cards" on local schools come in, information and insight into the school down the street will provide the tipping point for change.
I support information transparency.
Update, 10/29/07: Commenter Dean and I teach at a relatively high achieving school in a well-to-do neighborhood. If testing went away tomorrow, our students, by virtue of their successful parents and the quality teachers at our school (Dean being one of them), would continue to do well. That isn't the case at many schools; some schools can rightly be called dropout factories.
WASHINGTON - It's a nickname no principal could be proud of: "Dropout Factory," a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That dubious distinction applies to more than one in 10 high schools across America...
There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, no more than a decade ago but no less, either...
The highest concentration of dropout factories is in large cities or high-poverty rural areas in the South and Southwest. Most have high proportions of minority students. These schools are tougher to turn around, because their students face challenges well beyond the academic ones — the need to work as well as go to school, for example, or a need for social services...
Federal lawmakers haven't focused much attention on the problem. The No Child Left Behind education law, for example, pays much more attention to educating younger students. But that appears to be changing.
House and Senate proposals to renew the five-year-old No Child law would give high schools more federal money and put more pressure on them to improve, and the Bush administration supports the idea.
Update #2, 10/29/07: I just came across a wonderful validation of one of my beliefs, in this week's EIA Communique:
The Guy is one of the few people (maybe the only one) in any specified location who can solve problems that aren't in the technical manual, the agency guideline, or the computer instructions. He or she may or may not be the manager. It's unrelated. The Guy quickly corrects your double-billing, replaces a washer instead of tearing out your bathroom sink, prescribes the perfect medication, or immediately gets you a new desk after your principal says it will take three months. You all know The Guy, even though it's getting harder and harder to find him or her.
The gap between The Guy and everyone else is growing. Morford blames it on lots of things. Kids lack intellectual acumen. They're lazy slackers. They're overprotected and wussified. They're overexposed to and overstimulated by television, video games and the Internet. And yes, he even blames standardized tests.
At the same time, he admits, there are many, many brilliant young minds out there. Were they lucky? Private-schooled? Affluent? (I don't think so. Affluent schools aren't immune.)No. They're self-motivated.
Self-motivation is key.
Update #3, 10/29/07: Wow, I'm on a roll tonight on finding updates for this post--and I'm not even looking for them. I just stumbled upon this one from last week's Carnival of Education. In it, a student in Denver supports state standardized testing because it prepares her for *other* tests--like the ones needed to get into college. Agree or disagree, it's certainly an interesting perspective.