Monday, April 11, 2011

Stress Factories

My daughter is starting her week of high-stakes testing, which is designed to punish and/or reward schools based on their scores on this single battery of standardized tests. And I just ran across a great piece by Chris Hedges called "Why the United States is Destroying Its Education System." You want to read the whole thing, but here's a quote from a disgruntled educator that rings true for me:
“If the Bloomberg administration can be said to have succeeded in anything,” he said, “they have succeeded in turning schools into stress factories where teachers are running around wondering if it’s possible to please their principals and if their school will be open a year from now, if their union will still be there to offer some kind of protection, if they will still have jobs next year. This is not how you run a school system. It’s how you destroy one. The reformers and their friends in the media have created a Manichean world of bad teachers and effective teachers. In this alternative universe there are no other factors. Or, all other factors—poverty, depraved parents, mental illness and malnutrition—are all excuses of the Bad Teacher that can be overcome by hard work and the Effective Teacher.”
The stress is baked into the system at all levels. It's passed down from the federal level, to the states, to the school districts, to the principals, to the teachers, to the kids.

It was inherent in the NCLB paradigm that there would be sticks but no carrots, and the whole thing was underfunded from the beginning in a bait-and-switch maneuver that the Bush White House used to get Ted Kennedy on board. And untangling this mess will require more commitment than the Obama White House has shown to date.

If you work in a school, have kids in the school system, or depend on those kids to grow up and run this country when you retire, this should concern you. It's parked right here.

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