October 7, 2015

Frequent readers of this blog are well aware of my frequent postings condemning the constant-testing culture that now prevails in our nation’s public school classrooms.

Today, however, we’re going to examine another aspect of testing in our schools.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what American students know and can do in core subjects.

On that topic, THE WASHINGTON POST published an article last week by Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and former New York City schools chancellor, (“The dumbing-down of state testing”). Here is a brief excerpt:

“ . . . When the authors of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test — the “nation’s report card” — sought to “map” their national standards against the standards established by individual states using the most recent available data, they identified 10 states where reading proficiency standards were below the NAEP standards. Jill Barshay of the Hechinger Report recently called out Georgia for having standards that are particularly weak; they are a full four grades behind New York’s, which are generally regarded as the toughest. The greatest scorn, however, has to be reserved for the five states that have set their eighth-grade standards below the NAEP levels in both reading and math: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho and Ohio. The legislators in those states who permit this fraud on the public are dooming their populations to failure. . . .

The update of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act making its way through Congress does nothing to remedy this situation. It does for the first time facilitate comparisons among students of different income brackets, which is a major step in the right direction. However, it continues the practice of allowing each state to set its own standards. As a result, a state can set the bar low and claim victory when its students clear the unjustifiably low hurdle. States that choose to reach higher are then criticized for having fewer of their students reach the ostensibly “advanced” level. . . . “

Allowing politicians to meddle in public education is always dangerous —- and, often destructive. The children become the real losers when these ego-driven politicians think they know more than professional educators. A pity.

Before I close today, it’s worth remembering Steve Jobs who died four years ago this week. Many of his oft-quoted comments (THE HUFFINGTON POST) apply to every one of us —- regardless of our profession.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful: That’s what matters to me.”

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

“Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.”

“I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.”

“Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”

“It’s better to be a pirate than to join the Navy.”

“You have to trust in something —- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)