Moratorium on Testing ! Part One by Lorraine Richardson

The goal of this article is to frame a conversation around a MORATORIUM on TESTING, especially in urban communities. I have attempted to identify reasons why we need to temporarily cease this destructive practice. Written in bold letters are questions that you might want to pose with friends, church members, policy makers, social group members, community leaders. Perhaps it might inspire you to write a letter the editor of your local paper or to lawmakers. Our voices need to be heard.

Will Children and Their Teachers Be the Next Bubble?

The industrial capitalism was the greatest era of prosperity Americans ever experienced. Designed to prepare ALL students to share in the prosperity of an industrial economy, schools and their teachers taught basic skills and rote memorization to the masses and a critical thinking, problem-solving curriculum to the cognitively and economically elite. A daily, COVERT curriculum of silence, obedience, stillness, rigid uniformity, and punctuality prepared both groups to TAKE ORDERS WITHOUT QUESTION from a foreman in a plant or from a manager in an office. The industrial economy was a social and economic context in which schools/teachers were neither expected to nor needed to educate ALL children equally and well. However, because of the unruly forces of globalization and technological change, this schoolhouse model/mission is gone with the wind.

Birth of a New Educational Civilization
After Industrialism died and along with it a prosperous way of life, alarmed stakeholders: foundations, educators, business people, politicians, parents rushed to birth a new narrative.

How do we prepare ALL students to succeed in a Post-Industrial World? Because the price of prosperity is no longer automatic submission to authority, what new covert curriculum do we need to institute for students? What should the new educational baby/ system look like: Charter schools? Vouchers? Performance Pay? Accountability systems? Technology? Better Funding? Eliminate Unions?

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Journeying to School House 2.0: A Perspective

During the industrial economy, schools’ primary mission was to graduate the masses from high school. Teachers employed a curriculum of basic skills that they blended daily with a mix of rigid conformity, obedience, and punctuality. A prosperous path waited at the end of the high school rainbow, generally in a plant taking orders from a foreman or in an office filled with repetitive tasks. The cognitively and economically elite attended examination schools or private schools and engaged in a curriculum based on critical thinking and problem-solving. A seat at the tables of power and/ or prestige awaited them at the end of college or graduate school.

The sunlight of educational opportunity beamed brightly on women and minorities during the latter part of this economy. Enjoying increased ACCESS to education, these groups began to complete high school and/or to attend college in greater numbers than in previous decades. Doing so empowered more Americans, including me, to participate in the greatest economic expansion America has ever known.

Journeying from Providing Access to Ensuring Achievement
Eventually, the sunlight of the industrial economy was switched off as a new economy emerged. A technological, innovation-based global economy moved the education bar from providing access to education to ENSURING achievement. Now ALL groups are expected to be provided with a critical thinking, problem-solving (Common Core) agenda. Educating EVERYONE to a single, uniform standard is a feat that has never been attempted at scale. Reforms abound across the land as all school districts hustle to meet the new and increased educational demands of the new economy.

Bridging the Abyss?

Bridging the Abyss?

Bridging the Abyss

Almost once a week I participate in a virtual chat that focuses on strategies to bridge the abyss between the old and the new models of teaching and learning. Technology’s role is always part of the conversation. Apps, tablets, software, videos, social media are the new next thing to disrupt the industrial model of education and to usher in one that is more student-centric. Every school district in America has jumped on the technology bandwagon without any solid proof (data) that it improves learning, improves test scores – ensuring achievement over the long haul.

Even with talks of fiscal cliffs and sequestration, school districts spend limited tax dollars to purchase the latest and greatest technology for its students in a desperate hope that it will give them an advantage in an increasingly competitive and technological world. Even as teaching positions are downsized, librarians (media specialists) positions eliminated, the arts decimated, nothing has slowed the technology march.

Just how important is technology to preparing students for the new bounds of prosperity drawn by the competitive forces of globalization?

In Part II, I will provide insight from an Owl Mountain perspective.