WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO TURN EDUCATION AROUND
By Lynn Stuter
December 13, 2005
In 1983 a report was written, A Nation At Risk. In the next fifteen years this report would be much quoted and would become the springboard for education transformation. Few knew then what the ramifications of that report would be.
Now, twenty years later, the American education system is no longer at risk, its in critical condition. Children attending government schools are not being educated for intelligence, they are being educated only to the extent that they can fill a slot in the workforce. Without exception, children attending government schools are being dumbed down.
While state departments of education expound loud and long about the rise in “test” scores, the test being used to determine those “rising scores” isn’t a test at all but an assessment; a subjective measure of whether the child is demonstrating mastery of equally subjective state exit outcomes (by whatever named called) that align with the eight national goals of Goals 2000 and the SCANS (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) competencies.
The assessments are neither valid nor reliable, made very apparent in Washington State by people scoring those assessments who have come forward to say that the scores can be manipulated in a multitude of ways to achieve the overall score wanted by the head of the department of education. Manipulating the scores, of course, keeps the money pouring in but does nothing to change the fact that the system is a total and complete failure.
Recently we learned that in Washington State the assessment is not costing the $30,000,000 claimed by the head of the department of education, Terry Bergeson, but at least twice that amount, or $60,000,000 every time the assessment is given. And the assessment is neither valid nor reliable.
And none of this takes into account the billions of taxpayer dollars that have been spent in completely overhauling the education system to achieve its current critical condition status. That money was spent transforming from a system that could be fixed to a system that is completely untenable, at the same time lining the pockets of people and companies involved with the cooperation of elected officials.
Recently the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF), located in proximity to the capitol buildings in Olympia, Washington, produced a slick booklet that culminated with its recommendations of what needs to happen to turn education around in Washington State.
Unfortunately, the EFF failed to address the one overriding issue that must be addressed before any of the recommendations made in its slick booklet can even be thought about — the de facto contracts the states have entered into in taking federal grant money.
Chief US District Court Judge Bernard A Friedman, based in eastern Michigan, made it very clear in dismissing the case brought by the NEA and several state affiliated teacher unions against the federal government regarding the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB), stating that Congress “has appropriated significant funds” and has the power to require states to set educational standards in exchange for federal money. He further stated that NCLB
Of course, one should ask how the judge defines “test” as what he refers to is not a test but a subjective, behaviorally oriented assessment.
It is pretty obvious that the NEA and state affiliated teacher unions aren’t going to take on the federal government on the grounds that the system that has been implemented, via federal grant money in the form of de facto contracts, isn’t about educating children for intelligence as the NEA and state affiliates have long been proponents of education that dumbed down children.
By all appearances the NEA and state affiliates are suing because teachers are now being assessed on whether their students are demonstrating the wanted behaviors (team players, critical thinking, communications, making decisions, adapting to change and understanding whole systems) as determined by the state constructed and federally required assessment vehicle. That assessment of the teacher directly reflects on the teacher’s salary, future education requirements, and future employment as a teacher.
Beyond the obvious conflict now coming into play with the largest teacher union in the United States, albeit that conflict does not address the real issues of education transformation, is the fact that the judge made it very clear that, in taking the federal grant money, states have entered into contracts with the federal government that are legal and binding and enforceable. This is something many of us who have researched the burgeoning boondoggle of education transformation have said for a long time, and something that state departments of education have vehemently denied.
As with everything else, the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle also applies with education — that which is simplest is always the best and the most effective; the fact that home schools are producing the most highly educated and intelligent young adults across the nation is testament to the KISS principle. Why is that? Because the focus is on educating the child for intelligence instead of psycho-education, i.e. behavioral education intended to produce a cooperative, collaborative, teamplayer, not too well educated, but willing to work for minimal compensation for the greater good of the collective whole — the worldclass worker of the 21st century defined.
America’s Choice: high skills or low wages!, the report of the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (CSAW), a commission of the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE), made it very clear. Much touted as a catalyst to education transformation, one sentence in the entire report is consistently ignored:
It means just exactly what it says. America’s Choice: high skills or low wages! preceded the SCANS commission, many of the same people who sat on the CSAW commission also sitting on the SCANS commission, appointed by none other than Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Labor to President George Herbert Walker Bush (Senior) and wife of Senator Bob Dole. Is it any wonder then that the SCANS competencies align to the recommendations of America’s Choice: high skills or low wages! as do the eight “education” goals of the Goals 2000: Educate America act, as do the various state exit outcomes?
I recently queried my representatives to the Washington State Legislature regarding why the Washington Assessment of Student Learning — the infamous WASL, neither valid nor reliable, was not being addressed by the Legislature. The following, in part, was a response to my query:
This missive, however, failed to mention the overriding issue — the fifty states, comprising the United States, have spent billions of taxpayer dollars in pursuit of a system of education to dumb down children to become the worldclass workers of the 21st century. States and state legislatures are unable to redeem themselves because they ceded control to the federal government who has no intention of relinquishing the power and control it has garnered willingly.
In 1983, A Nation At Risk made the following statement:
That act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament is, in 2005, pretty much complete, resulting in the destruction of the lives of the thousands of children held captive in the failing government schools.
That failure cannot be effectively addressed and changed until the federal government is given the boot.
© 2005 Lynn M. Stuter - All Rights Reserved
Mother and wife, Stuter has spent the past ten years researching systems theory with a particular emphasis on education. She home schooled two daughters, now grown and on their own. She has worked with legislators, both state and federal, on issues pertaining to systems governance and education reform. She networks nationwide with other researchers and citizens concerned with the transformation of our nation. She has traveled the United States and lived overseas.
Web site: www.learn-usa.com
As with everything else, the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle also applies with education — that which is simplest is always the best and the most effective;