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22 October 2014 @ 11:23 am
Duncan Do-nots  
OK, it is an awkward and forced title. But when Arne Duncan opens an editorial with this assertion, I think maybe he has had a change of heart: "As a parent, I want to know how my children are progressing in school each year. The more I know, the more I can help them build upon their strengths and interests and work on their weaknesses. The more I know, the better I can reinforce at home each night the hard work of their teachers during the school day."

I agree. When the kids were younger, I spent time talking with them about their day. We talked about what they did at school. They told me what homework they had. I offered help as they asked for it. I reviewed work they would turn in. I like to think I was helping them. I did not "reinforce" their learning, but I did let them teach me what they had been taught. And sometimes I answered questions they still had. Over the course of several decades (kids and then the residents of the back bedroom), I was eternally grateful that I COULD help them. I worried about their classmates who did not have access to an educator at home.

Back to Secretary Duncan's piece, though. While I was pleasantly surprised by the opening lines, I soon came to see what this piece was really all about: testing. Here is the link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/arne-duncan-standardized-tests-must-measure-up/2014/10/17/e0e699c4-54a4-11e4-892e-602188e70e9c_story.html entitled STANDARDIZED TESTS MUST MEASURE UP. Ugh. Here we go again. See how long it takes you to spot the same old reformist agenda:

1. Other countries outperform us. PISA rears its ugly head.
2. We have to hold everyone accountable. Tests and grades are best at that with a parent-teacher conference thrown in for good measure (no mention of student work, just grades).
3. We must increase test scores.
4. Teachers need to be accountable for how their students do no matter what, but hey, we are giving them a break right now and not using VAM (which has been largely discredited).
5. The new tests will be better (more rigor, harder) than the old ones.

And my favorite: "America’s schools are changing because our world is changing. Success in today’s world requires critical thinking, adaptability, collaboration, problem solving and creativity — skills that go beyond the basics for which schools were designed in the past."

You see, education is just now waking up to the importance of critical thinking (Bloom et al notwithstanding) and problem solving (Big 6, anyone? Maybe CPS??). Creativity? Why didn't we think of that sooner? And, wow, collaboration, that's a good idea. I do not know how far back Secretary Duncan can go in terms of education, but I can go back to the 50s as a student and the 70s as a teacher. I can report without fear of contradiction that none of this list of his is NEW. it has been part of classrooms for a long time. It might have been put aside when NCLB transformed classrooms into test prep factories (show progress or lose funding and lose the school and faculty).

Secretary Duncan needs to get into a WAYBACK Machine with Mr. Peabody and visit the classrooms of the past, before the emphasis on a single measure of accountability.
 
 
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