You are here

Standardized Testing, Public Schools, and Barbara Madeloni

When my kids were little, I was torn about public schooling. I believed in unschooling and other, more radical, kinds of educational models. I half-seriously considered trying to start an alternative school that would have an emergent curriculum, if not entirely self-directed and that would be project-oriented, with students doing Work — real work — that would benefit the community. I envisioned having multi-age student groups create public service announcements, running political/publicity campaigns, organizing public events, etc, as a means to explore not just reading, writing, and 'rithmatic, but social issues, communication, and analytics.

At the same time, as a good liberal, I wanted desperately to support public schools. I mostly didn't believe in the factory model of education even then. But I did believe in the idea of the public schools as a shared experience — one of the few that remains — that binds our society together. And when we moved to the neighborhood by Marks Meadow School, the only small, neighborhood school left in Amherst, I was satisfied that it was a good decision for my boys. Although, watching them over the years — and watching what has happened to education generally — was very disquieting. The vilification of the teaching profession, driven first and foremost by the testing regime and standardization of the curriculum, has devastated public education.

It was painful to read this interesting and thoughtful essay about a parent who's child decided first to opt out of standardized testing. But then decided to opt back in, out of a sense of loyalty to the school. The school feels compelled to walk a line between doing what they believe is right for the children's education and engaging in duplicitous exercises: the school

offers extra credit points for attending CST prep sessions; that the school promotes a ‘CST Spirit Week’ with games and prizes; and that claims are made in school communication that imply the children should subscribe to the belief that high API scores offer the school a competitive advantage to other public schools

The author argues passionately that he is "a strong supporter and ally of the school". But how much longer than one feel that way? Some people are just giving up. But not everyone.

Some people are digging in for a fight. Barbara Madeloni came to public education just as things were getting bad: when she started working in teacher preparation she found herself on the front lines of the battle to privatize public education. When she encouraged her students to resist, her contract was not renewed. Now she's running for president of the Mass Teachers Association. The election takes place at the MTA Annual Meeting in Boston. I'll be there.