Tag Archives: standardized tests

Worcester’s MCAS scores are published …

By Edith Morgan

Worcester’s MCAS scores are published, and once again the public is treated to a bunch of truly meaningless, worthless numbers, designed, not to enlighten or help improve our public schools, but to denigrate the performance of those most abused by this money-mad society and to hold them down longer and most surely.

Many years ago our public schools undertook the unique task of educating EVERY child – no matter what that child brought to school.

This was a most remarkable goal, and well beyond what most nations did: they selected the cream of the crop, and funneled them through their systems, tested them, and supported and encouraged them to go as high as they could (Thus were created the Olympic stars, etc of many nations.) But America chose another path, at least on paper. (Things tend to get watered down or even perverted when left to the states). For several decades, with impetus from the Federal Government, we tried very hard to give every child in America an even chance – regardless of poverty, minority status, mental or physical handicaps, or abusive home environment, – to become a full-fledged citizen, neighbor,  family member and worker.

I was teaching at the time, and it was demanding work, but very fulfilling.

But then, gradually, almost unperceived, there was a change: several things occurred (not in this order, but equally important):

We elected a President who convinced too many people that “Greed is Good”, with the obvious deadly results.

We started to believe in the “wisdom of the Market”, and despite all the data to the contrary, began to import the philosophy and methods of industry into our schools, making them more like factories (of late we have also imported the business model into medicine with disastrous results)

In a well-funded and orchestrated campaign, we were told: that our schools were mediocre, our teachers overpaid, and our goals of creating lifelong learners and good citizens should subverted  and instead we should produce workers for business.

In a real slap in the face to parents and citizens, a major move to “privatize” (i.e. take over the public schools from the public) was instituted, under the thinly disguised excuse that these “model” schools would try new and better things, from which the local public schools could then learn and adapt their methods and  curricula. (I was at that time involved with several years of Federal programs funding experiments in the public schools, designing better ways to teach reading, literature, etc.. and these programs, since they were federally funded, were available to all. Imagine my surprise when one major supplier of charter programs turned out to be using these ideas, not creating their own, new ones.)

We were told that we needed these alternatives, because the public schools lacked innovation and creativity and flexibility. So, instead of giving our public schools the flexibility they needed, we created this spurious alternative, siphoned funds away from the neediest, and enthroned the profit motive in one more place where it has no business being.

Not everything in a decent society can turn a profit: I strongly believe that education and health care should not be privately held by for-profit, enterprises (and maybe we should add public transportation and parkland to the list).

Testing, testing, testing …

By Edith Morgan

School has started – parents heave a sigh of relief, and the Damocles sword of mandated testing programs hangs heavy over teachers and students. And the purveyors of the tests are laughing all the way to the bank at the prospect of yet another very profitable year of ripping off the taxpayers, gaining control of what and how we teach our children, and generally playing into the hands of the privatizers and dehumanizers who are increasingly getting control over us in so many ways.

“No Child Left Behind” – left so many behind! –  and its illegitimate offspring,  “Race to the Top” (or more correctly, “Race to the Bottom”) both require standardized testing . How do you suppose mandatory standardized testing was included? How many palms of elected officials in Washington, D.C. were crossed with silver to make sure the testing companies made out like bandits every year in every school?

I was in education at all levels for more than 40 years and have kept up since then. I have never yet met or heard of a teacher who does not test students regularly. Weekly, or sometimes even daily, students have to prove that they have learned or mastered what is being taught.

Remember the spelling tests, the math tests, the essays, the many ways teachers check to see what is being learned, what needs to be re-taught, what has to be taught a different way if too many in the class did not “get it”? The tests reflected accurately what had been taught and enabled the classroom teacher to assess what students had “gotten”  and what they still needed to know. So, if there was a clear understanding of what the curriculum required, it was always up to the teacher to make certain that those things were taught and learned. Good teachers also applied a variety of ways to learn, adapting their methods to the learning styles of their students.

Standardized tests pretty much throw all that out the window.

Their form does not take into consideration the most important things that American schools traditionally valued: Their job was not simply to make kids “marketable” but to grow a new generation of good citizens, informed enough to participate ALL THEIR LIVES in their families, communities and nation – and to make intelligent and thoughtful choices all along. There is NO standardized test which even considers these goals, as they are not amenable to multiple choice bubbles.

We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have in Cambridge an organization called “FairTest,” which has for many years monitored and reported on testing throughout the nation. Every administrator, teacher, parent and citizen interested in securing the best education for ALL our children should at the very least read their report, “How Standardized Testing Damages Education” – updated July 2012. It details how this testing does NOT provide accountability, measures very little and is not accountable to our parents, teachers, students and community.

To learn more google FairTest. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Education – or brainwashing?

By Edith Morgan

In 1951, armed with a B.A. from a great liberal arts college, and recently married, I set out to find work so that my husband could finish his degree . After a summer stint as a complaint adjuster at Montgomery Ward (since a degree in liberal arts, while wonderfully broadening, did not really prepare me for a career), I eventually went into public school teaching. In those days, there was a shortage, and we “retreads” could begin teaching and acquire the needed education courses to become certified. Coming from a background and a culture where teachers are revered and held in high esteem, it was not difficult for me to feel I had fallen into the right choice.

So, I began teaching, at the princely sum of $3,000 a year. AS a female, I was not considered “head of household”, even though I was supporting my husband who was still in graduate school) but at least we had progressed to the point where married women could teach.

Having attended 8 years of public school in France, I expected that there would be an agreed-to curriculum, which I would then apply to the children before me, and do what I felt was needed to be sure that each learned what was required. When I closed the door to my room, I was in charge, and responsible. The first two or three years I was up until two and three in the morning, going over the day’s activities, creating materials, correcting papers, doing lessons plans, and mulling over notes about various children who were not achieving as expected. After a while I was able to cut down on the midnight oil, and attended Saturday classes, as well as summer college education courses, where 45 quarter hours finally got me fully certified in Ohio and Michigan, with a certificate that was interchangeable with Massachusetts, where I eventually ended up.

I tell you this history, to contrast what schooling has become – a bureaucratized career mill, based on the factory model . designed to turn out pliant drones for industry, who can bubble in ovals n a never-ending succession of spurious exams designed to label the less fortunate among us as failures.
The process has been gradually sneaked into our schools, always with the misuse of glowing promises (“choice”, “vouchers”, “saving money”, industry can do it better”, charter schools as models, etc..) Teachers are disempowered, spurious test data is used, feeding the uninformed public the notion that a number actually means something when applied to ever changing groups of children.

And so, since money is everything to too many people, the education of our children, alleged to be our most precious resource, is becoming more and more brainwashing, less and less nurturing young minds to think, and reason in a democratic society

A beginning teacher makes less than a mailman – but needs a B.A., or even an M.A. . After 9 years, the teacher will not earn even half what a doctor or lawyer makes, even with a doctorate. But of course, none of us go into teaching for the money – but that does not mean that teachers should not be able to afford a house, some benefits, and respect. We have acquired those things only after decades of organizing, negotiating, and pleading. If we want the best, we will have to pay for the best…