Friday, February 23, 2007

Standards: Runaway Truck or Revised Traditionalism? Nichols, Berliner, and Hayes Have a Go

A couple of recent publications impugn the seemingly runaway truck momentum of standards and back to basics education in the U.S.. Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools and The Progressive Education Movement: Is It Still a Factor in Today's Schools?. The former's authors, Sharon L. Nichols and David C. Berliner, go so far as to suggest the state of ill in America's public schools warrants "epidemic" status. On high stakes tests in general, Collateral Damage's Chapter 1 suggests, "The tests are seen by some as the perfect policy mechanism because they are both effectors and detectors—they are intended to effect or cause change in the system and then detect whether changes in the system actually occur."

While Nichols and Berliner argue that high stakes testing, specifically NCLB are flawed, contributing to dropout crises, and incapable of closing achievement gaps, William Hayes takes a more circuitous look at high stakes testing by appreciating the alternatives. In his introduction, Hayes likens the rarity of an odd politician who pronounces herself "liberal" to the odd educator practicing progressive ideals.

It's nice to see that progressive ideals in education are not dead and that standards are not so sacrosanct to be above discussion. If we are to keep moving in the largely positivist direction on roads paved with No Child's ambition we ought to be damn sure we're revisiting what it is we are doing and how we got here.


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