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Today, we saw in graphic form the moral bankruptcy of standardized testing in this country. The State of Missouri closed Gordon Parks Elementary, a specialized charter school in Kansas City, for repeatedly failing the standardized state tests that the state administers.

Gordon Parks is a charter school that specializes in catering to the needs of students in the direst poverty. We all agree on the need to hold public schools accountable. But the problem with standardized tests is that they cater to a one size fits all approach. It doesn't matter if you are the best and the brightest or if wondering where your next meal will come from is much more important than getting an education. Everybody has to take the test and everybody is judged the same. If you score 100, you are a success. If you score 50, you are a failure. The corporations that devise these tests walk away with a tidy profit.

The problem with these tests is that they dishonor the men and women in uniform who have fought for our freedoms throughout our country's history. Our country was founded on the notion that all people everywhere were entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, an ideal that we fought a civil war over. After we won the Civil War, we no longer believed that Black lives were only worth a fraction of a White life. So why are we now turning around and assigning a value to human life?

The state's rationale is that only 10-20% of the students were passing the state standardized tests, which have to be given to students no matter what. Well, if these students were to write a test about life in their neighborhood and what they have to go through every day, I'm sure that only 10-20% of us would pass their tests. You see how subjective testing is? All it does is reflect the cultural biases of the corporations who devise these tests.

But when an unholy alliance of politicians, bureaucrats, and corporations come together to profit off the backs of our children, these sorts of travesties of justice happen. The corporations walk away with their profits. The bureaucrats are simply doing their jobs and shutting themselves out from the rest of the world. The politicians say this "proves" that school accountability works. The children are the ones who suffer.

We all agree that schools can and should be held accountable for student performance. The state rightfully has shut down other charter schools that have had gross financial and management issues. But if the schools are on a sound financial footing and they are serving the needs of the students, then they should not be shut down. This sad episode shows that the only people who are properly qualified to determine whether the children are learning properly are the people who actually live and work with the children in question, not some far-off politician or bureaucrat in Jefferson City or Washington and certainly not some corporation in some cozy skyscraper in New York City.

And on top of the fact that hundreds of families are scrambling to find their next meal even more now that the school will no longer be able to feed these kids during the summer, there is the issue of what to do with a building that will now be vacant. In other words, the state is simply creating blight and an eyesore, seeing that there will be one more vacant building that is no longer being used, that will soon (10-15 years) develop leaky roofs and flooding that nobody can afford to fix.

There is a double standard at work here. A few years ago, the state decided to allow Premium Standard Farms, one of the largest CAFO's in the country, to keep operating despite the company having twice submitted to consent judgments in massive environmental lawsuits filed against the company. That is on top of the numerous nuisance lawsuits that the company has lost to neighbors who have to live next to the stink of these hog farms. The rationale was that they were too big to fail and provided thousands of jobs to a blighted region in north Missouri. Furthermore, if they were shut down, nobody knew who would foot the bill for the astronomical cleanup costs that would have followed.

But here, the state is ignoring the economic catastrophe that is sure to follow the closure of Gordon Parks. Hundreds of people will be without jobs; children will be without a place to eat during the summer, and the community will suffer given that schools are the lifeblood of the communities and neighborhoods that they are located in. When hopelessness sets in, that is when the drug dealers move in to sell drugs to our children. And then our politicians wonder why we are not making headway on the so-called "War on Drugs."

Recently, Pope Francis reminded us to be more mindful of the poor living in our midst. It was a powerful call that got a recommended diary at Daily Kos, not normally a friendly platform for the Pope or the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, by its practice of assigning values to human lives, the politicians and bureaucrats and the corporations have done the exact opposite.

 The words of the Prophet Ezekiel are very much relevant to this situation. All it would have taken was one person to "stand in the gap" and take a stand against the moral turpitude that passes for "school accountability" these days. But apparently, nobody in Jefferson City or Washington or Corporate America cares about the kids of Gordon Parks or other such kids around the country.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Rewarding or punishing schools (9+ / 0-)

    based on standardized test performance is asinine to say the least.

    If anything, we should be investing more in the schools where students are failing. Making their situations worse won't improve their educations. We're doing wrong by our kids.

  •  False assumption (0+ / 0-)

    I am afraid I have a VERY big matter which I have to address in your diary. That is the assumption that schools in areas of social deprevation should get a "pass" for poor attainment levels.

    I think we can first agree that any form of standardized test should be free of any underlying racism, classism or any other form of bias based on cultural assumptions. A math question like "Your personal shopper gets 8% commission from the store. You buy clothes worth $25,000; how much commission does she earn?"  clearly represents a completely alien scenario for most children. Second, I agree with Egalitaire, it's not the tests per se but what they are used for.

    You may know that I am a School Governor (a member of what in the USA might be called a school board but we only deal with one school). The primary (4-11) school is in one of the most deprived areas of London and serves an area with high mobility in publicly provided housing. Around 55% of families are poor enough to be eligible for free school meals.

    There is an (English) national inspection regime where schools are independently assessed by trained pedagogs about once every three years. Schools can be placed in "special measures" or even closed down if they fail these inspections which include classroom observations and an examination of the effectiveness of the administration, including the Governors.

    Several years ago the school was in the lowest quartile of the borough "league table" showing the attainment of 11 year olds in the SATs. This was excused because of the area in which the school is and its population - just as is implied in your diary. The school was nearly placed in special measures but as governors we determined that the excuse was not valid and we should reject anything less than top quality education as a means of ensuring, as far as we could, the social mobility of our pupils in later life.

    The school employs both the national SATs and regular individual assessments of each pupil's progress as diagnostic aids. Not only do these identify the extent of their progress, it also helps identify any special requirements they might have or indeed if the teacher needs help or extra training in a particular subject. Very detailed statistics on the progress, attainment levels etc of the pupils by teaching group, age, etc are given to one governors' sub-committee.

    The school has moved from the lowest quartile of the league table to just into the upper 50% - bear in mind our borough includes some very desirable and leafy suburban areas. In fact data we got yesterday indicated our pupils entitled to free school meals have higher attainment levels than the others (possibly due to the parents of those not on FSM being unwilling to apply). The school's results are now above the national average in the three subject areas tested.

    Our school was the borough flagship school in the "Get London Reading" campaign earlier this year. Our pupils take part in the world-wide math computer-based competition "Mathletics" Currently two pupils are ranked in the 50s in the UK but we have had one in the top 10 in the UK and top 20 in the world.

    By all means do not dishonor historical warriors but more, do not denigrate students from poor and impoverished backgrounds. As Governors, our motto has been "Good is not good enough". Attainment is as much about expectation   as ability.

    (I must add that these improvements are down to the staff and the senior management team, their skills and dedication to education, as Governors, we provide the encouragement as "critical friends").

    We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Fri May 17, 2013 at 06:31:48 AM PDT

    •  You didn't hear me say that. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radical simplicity, DFWmom

      Nobody should get a free pass. Your school was able to succeed because it was able to set its own standards and meet them and the government was able to help them provide a top quality education. In this situation, the state made no effort to work with these kids that I could tell from the story. It just came completely out of the blue and shut down the school.

      •  Slightly more (0+ / 0-)

        I was making the point about how standard testing should be used and,given culturally neutral tests, students at schools in deprived areas can achieve as well in such tests as those in wealthy areas.

        You may have noted that my school had reached a low point where outside intervention was likely. There was a real possibility of  the school being taken over, completely re-organised and all the teachers sacked within a couple of years.

        Outside assessment by local authority advisors has just rated the standard of teaching as good or better.
        BTW, I did not make it clear that it was a whole class that were in the UK top 10 and world top 2O in the last round of Mathletics

        We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

        by Lib Dem FoP on Fri May 17, 2013 at 11:03:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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