The most insistent strain of neoliberalism in Barack Obama’s DNA is his commitment to charlatans in the educational testing system — the Michelle Rhees whose commitment to high scores doubles as a way to transform public schools into fiefdoms managed by private companies (Diane Ravitch has played an estimable role explaining how the grifters work). As high schoolers my students enter universities overconfident, thanks to grade inflation, and ignorant, thanks to the obsession with tests. Not all of them. Those who can afford private schools or who qualify for a “magnet” education are in better shape. But here is an example of social Darwinism at its subtlest. Who doesn’t believe in better schools and teachers? Who doesn’t want merit pay?
As his power wanes, Obama starts to rethink seven years of No Child Left Behind vehemence:
State officials have pointed out that federal requirements that remain in place under the No Child Left Behind Law are a big part of the testing problem. The Florida Department of Education also highlighted that the state already has a testing cap in place, and that changes in state law helped cut back on required testing last year.
“We’re proud of the fact that we’ve already taken some steps in our state,” Department of Education spokeswoman Meghan Collins said. “That’s something that’s ongoing; we’re always looking and listening and making changes as appropriate for our students.”
On Saturday, the Council of Great City Schools also released a two-year long study of testing in urban districts that found students spend up to 25 hours a year taking standardized tests – not including time spent practicing, which was not studied. From pre-k through 12th grade, students will take 112 tests, according to the report, which included data from Miami-Dade.
The report coincided with the release of a lengthy list of testing recommendations by the U.S. Department of Education, which included a call to scale back exams so that it only consumes 2 percent of the school year. Together, it all signaled a sharp change in tone from the Obama administration. The president even took to Facebook in a video message to say the pressure of tests has taken the “joy” out of teaching and learning.
Ravitch is unimpressed. Watch her speech at Wellesley at 28:02. Pullquote: Governors and legislators “don’t attack police for crime rates. You don’t see them closing police stations because of crime waves.”