This evening my wife and I have been finalizing the “application packages” for our 6 and 9 year old daughters to transfer into another public elementary school next year, which is an arts integration school. In searching for my oldest daughter’s last standardized test score report, we ran across the following letter from last year and the “Education Oversight Board / Office of Accountability” in Oklahoma. I realize the version below is very small to read, so you may want to click the image and view a larger version on Flickr.

May 2009 letter to Oklahoma Citizens

Note the language in paragraph three, sentence three:

The Educational Process section presents statistics on how education is being delivered to students.

Also note the first sentence of paragraph four:

As a stakeholder, we urge you to weigh the information provided on this card and determine for yourself the quality of the education being delivered to students.

The use of the word “delivered” twice in this document is instructive. I am not interested in an education which is merely “delivered” to my children, yet the authors of this document apparently believe that I am. Has Susan Field or Robert Buswell, who both signed this letter, read any of the writings of John Dewey or Paulo Freire? Certainly listening and “receiving” is PART of the educational experience, but it should properly be viewed ONLY as a part, not as the whole. I pedagogically object to the assumption that as a parent, citizen and taxpayer, I would or should want education merely “delivered” to my child, or that measurements of “delivery” could possibly constitute ALL the ingredients for accurately or meaningfully measuring “educational quality.”

The test scores highlighted on the pages which accompanied this cover letter reflect MINIMUM STANDARDS OF PERFORMANCE for all students. It is ridiculous to expect the public (and parents specifically) to equate educational excellence with the act of meeting MINIMUM standards. As I heard Janet Barresi say this past week when we met and discussed educational issues in Oklahoma, this “mistakes the ceiling for the floor” when it comes to educational expectations. The idea that these charts and graphs ALONE empower me as a parent to determine “the quality of the education” my children are receiving at their current Oklahoma public elementary school is RIDICULOUS, it is misleading, and it is WRONG.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: fontplaydotcom

There are SO MANY things which matter deeply in education which are not and cannot be reflected on a chart of statistics or on a neat bar graph. Both my wife and I have been classroom teachers, and as both teachers and parents there is NO WAY we would ever choose a school or a classroom for our own children based simply on a report of aggregated student test scores. The educational stakeholders of our nation continue to be sold a fraudulent bill of goods when it comes to “educational excellence” and true quality, in the form of letters and reports like these. Teachers in our school do not need an expensive test made by Pearson to be able to assess the learning and progress of students. As parents, we certainly want to receive regular updates about the progress and learning of our children, but multiple choice test results only show PART of the story, not the WHOLE story. The assumption of this letter is that TEST SCORES can tell the entire story, and that assumption is plainly WRONG. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m fine with tests, and as I teacher as well as parent I love assessments. We have to assess continually to check if learning is taking place. The thing I object to is the belief that high stakes, summative standardized tests can or should be the singular measurement of educational quality in our community, state and nation. That’s WRONG.

In times such as these, I need a reminder that it is precisely in the times of greatest darkness when the light of truth shines most brightly. Bring forth the light. I’ve had more than my fill of misleading lies when it comes to educational policy.

A Procession to Greatness
Creative Commons License photo credit: CarbonNYC

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