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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Standardized Idiocy and Norm-Referenced Stupidity

I am so tired of hearing about accountability in education. I wonder if these politicians even know what they mean when they say it, or if they just know it's a powerful sound bite? Of course, teachers should be accountable! They are accountable for getting up and going to work everyday, preparing challenging lessons, and sitting through mundane and insulting staff meetings where they are told how to do their job by others who have already failed at it. They are accountable for battling spin-doctoring bureuocrats, power-grubbing school board members, lazy students, and childish parents. Mostly they are accountable for performing a job in which failure is guaranteed and success rare and fleeting, a job in which no matter how hard you try, or how much of your meager paycheck you spend, or how many hours of personal time you give, or how much sleep you lose, or how much love and attention you devote to kids who aren't getting it anywhere else, you will have your heart ripped out more often than not. Then you get up the next day and do it all again.

For most, "accountability" is a synonym for testing. Test them until blood rolls out they're ears; that will somehow make them smarter. Never mind the time spent preparing for the tests might be better spent elsewhere. Ignore the ongoing incentive of teaching to the test. Pay no attention to the fact that the test designers intentionally create a test that will give traditional bell-curve results. But above all, no matter how important it may seem, do not under any circumstances mention that not a single, solitary shred of evidence exists to clearly demonstrate the efficacy of these tests. Not one peer-reviewed article, not one scientific study, nothing, nada. Ignore all this because testing is cheap and efficient for the schools, a win-win situation for politicians, and big business for testing companies.

In fact, i can go you one better. Write all the kids names on individual pieces of paper. Be sure to use a number 2 pencil. Now, throw all the papers down a flight of stairs. Those landing on the top step are in the 99th percentile, the second one down 98th, and so on. It's even cheaper, wastes less time "studying" for the test, and about as statistically meaningful.

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