Monday, February 17, 2014

Standardized Testing: Who Profits?

Standardized Testing & Common Core: Follow the Money to Profits.

Common Core...Just the latest in new "revolutionary teaching" ideas that will save our country from impending doom.  It started with the Red Scare and Sputnik but was further fueled by the 1983 report "A Nation at Risk" which lambasted our schools.  This report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education was undertaken at the request of Terrel Bell, the Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan.  This report called for sweeping reforms and standardization of education.  It compared the problems with education to the very serious Cold War and not properly educating our youth was tantamount to educational disarmament.  This report brought education into the national spotlight and to the attention of the business community.

People saw an untapped market and very quickly education became big business.  Like our toothpastes and cars, the businesses and politicians were always looking for the "new".  With this "new and improved" systems to sell, school districts and parents are coerced into buying it.  If they don't, the other countries might continue to have better test scores.  The politicians benefit by renaming the programs every few years and making big promises to win votes.  Who wants to vote against our children's futures?

Standardized tests are the supposedly best way to measure our students' understanding of the material.  I graduated with a degree in Middle School Education shortly before standardized testing was beginning its cancerous growth.  In class we learned about testing methods and all the problems with standardized tests.  So why are they becoming the norm?  Someone is profiting but it's not the students. 

Recent years this supposed education revolution has taken on new life in the form of charter schools.  Some charter schools are great and live up to the promises.  Unfortunately, for each success there are countless failures that offset that success.  Recently in Ohio a great number of charter schools opened and closed just as quickly.  The waste of money, time and resources pale in comparison to the educational damage done to the students.  

The problems aren't limited to K-12 programs.  Colleges and universities have become more interested in there sports programs than in the education of there students.  If you doubt this, examine the salaries of the athletic departments versus the academic departments.  How many of the coaches are paid on the same scale as an associate professor?  How many are contract employees who do not qualify for benefits and earn only $17,000 a year despite working at three institutions? 

According to a recent report by NPR 76% of college instructors fall into this "adjunct" category.  Public school teachers earn twice or three times the wages of the college professors who taught at least half and possible most of their college classes.  They also enjoy benefits and job security.  Colleges cite rising costs as the reasoning for this trend. Forget about athletics for a moment, how many in the administration are "adjunct"?

‘A Nation at Risk’ Turns 30: Where Did It Take Us?