Sunday, February 16, 2014

Delaware public education: you are getting what you voted for

There is an old saying, "The beatings will continue until morale improves."

This is pretty similar to what various Delaware educrats and (unfortunately) union leaders are saying about the new Smarter Balanced Assessment and Common Core Standards.

To wit:
"The reality is that our 15-year-olds are below average on mathematics, and they're average in reading," Michael Watson, the state's chief academic officer, told a gathering of school leaders last week. "These higher standards mean our students will be more competitive, and it means they will be more ready for college and careers."
This is in fact such an idiotic argument that in an culture run by common sense (as opposed to Common Core), Mr. Watson would have been required to quit his position in abject shame.

Think about this:  "Higher standards mean our students will be more competitive."

What they don't want you to look behind the curtain and see is that this is the old "standards drive instruction" mantra that has failed miserably since the 1990s to improve American public education, especially for students from poorer areas of the country.

This is the bizarre idea that writing harder tests will result in teachers teaching "better," and that those who can't move their students toward "better" will be removed and replaced with others who can.

Forget for a moment that the Common Core standards have absolutely nothing exceptionally meritorious about them to distinguish them from any of the other standards that have come into existence since the early 1990s, and will themselves be replaced in about five years when this current reform fad doesn't pan out.

Forget for a moment that the "getting better teachers" meme is a ridiculous delusion.  Like desegregation in Delaware, the high-stakes testing movement is forcing a whole generation of experienced teachers out of public education, and the people who are replacing them are less well-qualified and unlikely to stay in the field.

Forget for a moment that the Delaware State Education Association at the state level has completely lost all moral authority to even pretend to be representing the interests of public school teachers, which is pretty much to be expected when your state president is a full-time employee of the Delaware Department of Education.

Here's what you need to remember:  our legislators have a twenty-year history (that's 20 YEARS) of simply signing the checks for the ponzi scheme that has been high-stakes testing in Delaware.  They allocated millions to designing "world-class" standards between 1992-1995; TENS of millions to design, field-test, and administer the DSTP for about 12 years; additional TENS of millions to replace the DSTP with DCAS just 5 years ago; and now the Governor (who is, after all, functionally the Secretary of Education) wants to dump DCAS and spend TENS of millions more on Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Because doing this the first two times worked so well . . .

Here's what you need to remember:  by my best rough count going back to look through Delaware budgets during that time, taxpayers (many of whom are parents) have been asked to cough up as much as ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS just to pay for state testing during the last decade.  That's direct expenditure, and doesn't count the salaries of teachers giving the tests, or the cost of lost instructional time.

And it has all been--just ask Governor Markell or any of the flaks from DOE--a failure to this point.

A failure, by the way, that has to be blamed NOT on the people who came up with one ill-conceived reform after another and conned the willing patsies in the General Assembly to vote for it, but a failure that has to be blamed on Delaware teachers who have been asked to shoot at a moving target for two decades without any demonstrable increase in resources in their classrooms.

Can you imagine how that money could have transformed Delaware education had it been placed directly under the control of schools and teachers.

Yeah, Jack, you're right.  They'd probably have bought cakes and cookies and just put the kids on a sugar high as an excuse not to teach them.  And the DSEA President wouldn't have a cushy job in Dover from which she could pretend to be looking out for those same teachers while assuring everyone in Washington and Dover that they won't get any serious pushback from the teachers as they funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaign contributions for rubber-stamp politicians.

Reality check:  Tens of millions of tax dollars have been allocated and spent over the past decade not to teach children but to test them.

Because testing.

Time for some change.  Oh, wait, Democrats--as they have for years--control the State government, and Republicans vote with them on education about 90% of the time.

Never mind.  Walt Kelly (revised):  "We have met the enemy and he is who we keep voting for."


Anonymous said...

Nice one. Totaling up all the test costs over 20 years. Wish I'd thought of that one.

Anonymous said...

Steve - You've done a nice job of summing up the issues. Tell me what can I do to help stop this nonsensical spending and the politicized state of public education. I am a 25+ year special education teacher who pushes all of the paper and adheres to the bureaucracy... What is the solution?

Floyd said...

Our education system is not the best. It’s sad to realize that it is sinking. modern technologies give more information, but less knowledge. hard to systematize knowledge. students order work on the , they have creative thinking, in fact diplomas are sold, not acquired by knowledge.