When I read this post by Steven Singer, I was so excited that I thought about devoting an entire day to it. Like posting it and posting nothing else for the entire day. Or posting this piece over and over all day to make sure you read it. It is that important.
Steven’s post explains two different phenomena. First, why is standardized testing so ubiquitous? What does it have a death grip on public education?
Second, in the late 1990s, when I was often in D.C., I noticed that the big testing companies had ever-present lobbyists to represent their interests. Why? Wasn’t the adoption of tests a state and local matter? NCLB changed all that, Race to the Top made testing even more consequential, and the new ESSA keeps up the mandate to test every child every year from grades 3-8. No other country does this? Why do we?
He begins like this:
“It’s easy to do business when the customer is forced to buy.
“But is it fair, is it just, or does it create a situation where people are coerced into purchases they wouldn’t make if they had a say in the matter?
“For example, school children as young as 8-years-old are forced to take a battery of standardized tests in public schools. Would educators prescribe such assessments if it were up to them? Would parents demand children be treated this way if they were consulted? Or is this just a corporate scam perpetrated by our government for the sole benefit of a particular industry that funnels a portion of the profits to our lawmakers as political donations?
“Let’s look at it economically.
“Say you sold widgets – you know, those hypothetical doodads we use whenever we want to talk about selling something without importing the emotional baggage of a particular product.
“You sell widgets. The best widgets. Grade A, primo, first class widgets.
“Your goal in life is to sell the most widgets possible and thus generate the highest profit.
“Unfortunately, the demand for widgets is fixed. Whatever they are, people only want so many of them. But if you could increase the demand and thus expand the market, you would likewise boost your profits and better meet your goals.
“There are many ways you could do this. You could advertise and try to convince consumers that they need more widgets. You could encourage doctors and world health organizations to prescribe widgets as part of a healthy lifestyle. Or you could convince the government to mandate the market.
“That’s right – force people to buy your products.
“That doesn’t sound very American does it?
“In a democratic society, we generally don’t want the government telling us what to purchase. Recall the hysteria around the Obamacare individual mandate requiring people who could afford to buy healthcare coverage to do so or else face a financial tax penalty. In this case, one might argue that it was justified because everyone wants healthcare. No one wants to let themselves die from a preventable disease or allow free riders to bump up the cost for everyone else.
“However, it’s still a captive market though perhaps an innocuous one. Most are far more pernicious.
“According to dictionary.com, a captive market is “a group of consumers who are obliged… to buy a particular product, thus giving the supplier a monopoly” or oligopoly. This could be because of lack of competition, shortages, or other factors.
“In the case of government mandating consumers to buy a particular product, it’s perhaps the strongest case of a captive market. Consumers have no choice but to comply and thus have little to no protection from abuse. They are at the mercy of the supplier.
“It’s a terrible position to be in for consumers, but a powerful one for businesspeople. And it’s exactly the situation for public schools and the standardized testing industry.
“Let’s break it down.
“These huge corporations don’t sell widgets, they sell tests. In fact, they sell more than just that, but let’s focus right now on just that – the multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble assessments.
“Why do our public schools give these tests? Because peer-reviewed research shows they fairly and accurately demonstrate student learning? Because they’ve been proven by independent observers to be an invaluable part of the learning process and help students continue to learn new things?
“No and no.
“The reason public schools give these tests is because the government forces them. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires that all students in grades 3-8 and once in high school take certain approved standardized assessments. Parents are allowed to refuse the tests for their children, but otherwise they have to take them.”
A captive audience of 50.4 million students. Read the full analysis as I am skipping the meaty part.
He concludes with these questions:
If an industry gets big enough and makes enough donations to enough lawmakers, they get the legislation they want. In many cases, the corporations write the legislation and then tell lawmakers to pass it. And this is true for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Standardized testing and Common Core are one pernicious example of our new captive market capitalism collapsing into plutocracy.
Our tax dollars are given away to big business and our voices are silenced.
Forget selling widgets. Our children have BECOME widgets, hostage consumers, and access to them is being bought and sold.
We are all slaves to this new runaway capitalism that has freed itself from the burden of self-rule.
How long will we continue to put up with it?
How long will we continue to be hostages to these captive markets?
from sarah http://ift.tt/2oodIjN