Thursday, April 4, 2013
Atlanta and indeed the entire country have a lesson to be learned from the growing scandal . 180 educators have been implicated in a scheme to fix test scores. The breadth of the impact of the cheating shows that it wasn’t one or two teachers, but included a systemic approach that included administrators and principals. The kids weren’t even the drivers of the scheme. Better test scores means better paychecks.
I’m all for accountability and responsibility. In business there are many metrics that are easily measured. In education testing should be part of the measurement, but can’t be the sole measurement. George W. Bush and Edward (“Teddy”) Kennedy’s No Child Left Behind Act realigned the education system to a standards and goals derived system. A dozen years after it was signed into law teachers, students and parents complain about being hamstrung by the test. Employers are frustrated that graduates lack critical thinking abilities. Like most government programs, a well intentioned goal that hasn’t been met.
America lauds itself for individuality and creativity yet has designed an educational system that punishes either. I’m not so arrogant that I can propose a simple solution to a complex problem in a few hundred word blog. I do know what doesn’t work though.
Throwing more money at the current educational system doesn’t work. Education funding has increased in the U.S. Federal funding of education in 2001 (when the Act kicked in) was $69.7billion In FY 2011 it had soared to $157 billion – 2.25 times growth in ten years.
The additional dollars have not correlated to better test scores or improved literacy rates. The U.S. ranked 31 of 74 in mathematics, 23 of 74 in science, 17 of 74 in reading according to the U.S. Department of Education. Classroom sizes have decreased – from 15.2 to 14.5. That’s a 0.9 change against a 2.25 increase in funding.
Teachers are underappreciated, overworked and inadequately compensated for the importance that they have in the world. How effective the United States will be in the world is being determined every day by the men and women who are instructing today’s youth. The few hundred bad apples in Atlanta are a black eye on the millions of dedicated people who go above and beyond to teach beyond the test.
The role of government in education must be refined and, indeed, curtailed. Broad parameters of basics should be attained at certain grade benchmarks. Communities and parents must work hand in hand with the professional teachers to find what works. The approach to critical thinking and reasoning that works in Alabama is not going to be the same approach that works in Los Angeles or New York. You don’t need a number 2 pencil to know that.
Our decade long experiment with expecting that every individual will learn alike and test alike must come to an end. The lesson has been learned. Let’s let teachers teach.