High Stakes Testing and Other Unexamined Myths

MUSE WITH ME - Here’s another little story I swallowed whole growing up. That we here in America were different from those across the pond because we didn’t channel our young into predetermined life-paths before these children had been afforded time to discover their strengths and interests. 

That there was a staid, venerable tradition of schooling in Europe that perhaps had its charms and advantages but was at root a system designed to sustain the ruling power and effectively limit class movement. 

 

That because we were a democracy we were structured on the basis of an egalitarian system of education. Every little boy — even girl — could grow up to be president. 

When I was twelve I experienced the humiliation of being told that “American girls just don’t do well in our schools”. I heard the political condescension that the high-stakes testing administered to English children in their mid-teens resulted in a society of superior education. And I also understood that the evil underbelly of this system was the constricting of a child’s life into their performance on one exam. 

That one test regimen would dictate how a human being spent the rest of their life, whether channeled toward the hallowed halls of academia or instead, along a one-way vocational career track. 

My feelings were soothed with the certainty of innovation instituted two hundred years earlier by our Declaration of Independence. A revolution of possibilities for one and all that ended up kick-starting a kick-ass political economy, where we would never preordain a child’s future by the mere happenstance of their birth. 

This was the fairy tale I believed, and perhaps once it held some truth. But the tables have seemingly turned again upon our wide-spread adoption of tests far fiercer than any I was ever led to fear from abroad. 

We here in America have walked wide-eyed into a system that funnels our precious children into increasingly smaller, vocational schools. Constricting unified school districts narrows the possibilities available to children, and their very potential into ever more shallow, predetermining pools of industry-ready workers. 

With the wholesale commandeering of our academic curriculum by corporate electronics barons, we have abdicated that protection of independence and social mobility we once held so dear. 

We can stop this. We can reject the high-stakes testing. We can prioritize our children’s needs. We can remand our schools to the peace they need for nurturing creativity and the process of discovery. We can just say no – no more of this reform which isn’t.

 

(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor.)

-cw

 

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 36

Pub: May 3, 2013