How did public school children become so over tested?
Hint: It wasn't the idea of the schools, or the teachers, or the professors, or the parents, and it was certainly not the children. It wasn't the unions, or the educational researchers. It wasn't the superintendents, the school boards, the principals, or our country's great scientists, mathematicians, journalists, authors, historians, artists, musicians, or athletes.
It's the politicians. Again.
President Reagan started this trend in the 1980's with A Nation at Risk, and President George W. Bush took it further in 2002 with No Child Left Behind. Today, President Obama sends a confusing message with his education policies and Race to the Top program.
The state of Pennsylvania is one of, "Forty-six states and the District of Columbia (who) submitted comprehensive reform plans to compete in the Race to the Top competition...48 states worked together to create a voluntary set of rigorous college- and career-ready standards." Source: The White House website.
Those "48 states" really didn't create them. A man named David Coleman is considered the architect of them. It is his personal perspective that our children should write more arguments and less personal narratives. He states that, "It is rare in a working environment that someone says, 'Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.'”
And they really are NOT voluntary.
Diane Ravitch questions, "Why did 45 states agree to do this? Because the Obama administration had $4.35 billion of Race to the Top federal funds, and states had to adopt 'college-and-career ready standards' if they wanted to be eligible to compete for those funds. Some states, like Massachusetts, dropped their own well-tested and successful standards and replaced them with the Common Core, in order to win millions in new federal funds."
She tells us, "If you listen to the promoters of the Common Core standards, you will hear them say that the Common Core is absolutely necessary to prepare students for careers and college. They say, if we don’t have the Common Core, students won’t be college-ready or career-ready. Major corporations have published full-page advertisements in the New York Times and paid for television commercials, warning that our economy will be in serious trouble unless every school and every district and every state adopts the Common Core standards." Read more here.
So there you have it, folks. Our kids are being over-tested, due to the rare bi-partisan agreement of our politicians. And in Pennsylvania, our controversial Keystone Exams were instituted by our anti-public education Governor, Tom Corbett. So if your children get straight A's, but their standardized test anxiety leaves them failing the Keystones, bye-bye high school diploma.
Sure, they offer a "project" option, but the state threatens us that our kids will have a notification on their diploma that they passed the project, not the test. Oh, the Scarlet Letter approach. Good thing they still read lots of fiction when our politicians were in school. (UPDATE Fall 2013: Scarlet letter removed from transcripts. Read this post.)
All PA students must pass the Keystones, unless, of course, your kids go to private school, religious schools, or are homeschooled students.
We need to tell our state legislators that the Keystones are wrong. Wrong as a graduation requirement, wrong for fostering a love of learning, wrong for rattling the self-esteem of our children, and wrong as exit exams that decrease graduation rates.
Racing "to the top" is not a value that all parents want for their children. I sure don't. My home district is the kind that wants to continually grow, improve, and challenge all students. The parents here don't want a Common Core boot camp.
The tide is turning. The more we speak up and the more we come together to do so, the faster we can get our public schools talking about what really matters—our children, not their test scores.