Educational Reform: Some Caustic Questions

Robert Shepard, author and curriculum designer, has prepared an essay exam for the corporate reformers who think the know how to redesign American education.

He writes:

As a member of the Billionaire Boys’ Club, or as one of the paid associate of the BBC, you . . .

1. believe that that extraordinarily complex skills like reading and writing ability can be validly and reliably measured by simple, objective tests.

Explain how that could possibly be so.

Please draw upon your extensive knowledge of the relevant scientific literature.

2. believe that innovation comes about when free persons conceive of varied goods and services that compete with one another in a free market in which users choose the goods and services that they wish to purchase and use.

Explain how this belief can be reconciled with a) a single set of mandatory national standards for all students, b) a single set of mandatory high-stakes national tests, c) a single national database of all student test scores and responses, and d) scripted literacy lessons that all teachers must follow to the letter.

3. believe that all students should follow the same standards and take the same tests.

Explain how this belief can be reconciled with the fact that students differ enormously in their backgrounds, in their developmental levels, in their gifts and interests and propensities, and in the goals that they and their parents have for their futures.

4. believe that national standards do not narrow and distort curricula and pedagogy.

Please answer the following questions:

If standards do not drive (and so narrow and distort) curricula and pedagogy, why create them?

If they do drive curricula and pedagogy, how can a single set of predetermined standards be better than ANY alternative set that might be developed by ANY OTHER expert or group of experts in education and particular subject matter?

5. believe that our schools are failing.

Explain how can this belief can be reconciled with the fact that, when results on internationally norm-referenced exams in reading, mathematics, and science are corrected for the socio-economic levels of students taking the exams, U.S. students consistently score at the top or very near the top?

6. believe that a small group of persons appointed by a committee of politicians should be empowered to create standards that overrule and render irrelevant the judgments about desirable outcomes in particular courses of study made by professional teachers, curriculum developers, and curriculum coordinators.”

Why?

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