I read your recent article, “N.O. schools on 3-year slide” hoping for at least a glimmer of resistance to the massive and abusive web of obsessive testing foisted on our public schools, charter and traditional, throughout the USA. I found no such light. Instead I found the authors simply stating facts and a major leader of charter schools actually acquiescing to the power of testing.
Fact: The authors clearly state the obvious: “Those tests are the primary factor in elementary schools’ performance scores.” Testing rules; it has become the purpose of education. Schools must forever seek higher tests scores or face the wrath of the testing police —administrators, bureaucrats, board members, legislators and testing companies
The limitations placed on education by this massive testing should be horrific enough, but its stranglehold on even charters is becoming more frightening and real every day. The authors state that the charter advocates have argued that one of the significant strengths of charter schools is that they “can create curriculum catering to the needs of the children.”
The authors in explaining the tests scores slide over the past three years quote Jay Altman, a local leading charter school advocate, suggesting that charter schools may have been a little too slow to adopt a curriculum aligned with the supposedly more rigid statewide standards. In my experience, this means teach the tests: children needs be damned.
My final concern is when the concept of school autonomy, a hallmark of the charter school movement, is challenged by the falling tests scores. This challenge comes not from administrators, bureaucrats or even traditionalists, but comes from Jay Altman. “It’s interesting that one of things that helped the schools—autonomy—can work against us if we’re not also open to adopting things that are more standardized when it’s helpful.”
If you believe education is about teaching to the tests and raising test scores, then, yes, throw in the towel and standardized. However, if you believe that the purpose of education is about human development, about igniting imagination and creativity, about the beauty and joy of learning, then do not ever give up. I would hope that the charter school movement with Altman leading the way along with traditional school systems would embrace the concept of school-site-autonomy and would engage in the struggle to destroy the tyranny of testing.
Robert M. Ferris