"We Are Not At Fault, Since We See Nothing Wrong."

by L Jackway

Basing performance and subsequent reward or punishment on standardized high-stakes tests, even if based on local standards, cannot determine the degree to which a person is "educated." If the development of thought processes, including inference and judgment, are not to be evaluated as inherently part of an "education," much of what happens during student-teacher interaction in schools is being labeled - by exclusion - as meaningless to not only the mere acquisition of knowledge, but to the sequential building of an "education." Further compounding the problem in is the fact that some test questions have multiple logically-correct answers. If a student chooses an answer which is logically correct, based on the content and structure of the question, but is not the answer which has been identified by the test design as the only correct answer, that student is said to have answered incorrectly. The years of student-teacher interaction which aided the student to choose, by some process other than rote memorization and mechanical regurgitation an equally acceptable conclusion, is discredited. With the final posting of test results, the AIMS promoters reveal to the world they care little about the dynamic learning processes which result in educated people; they want only their correct answer to be marked.

The education system in America has much that is good; it also has some things that are not good. Educators know what is wrong and know how to improve the system. Superintendents who rely on easy-to-sell-proposals-because-I-want-to-further-my-political-career plans are not focused on the most basic components and procedures to effect improvement. School boards that fail to establish philosophically- and educationally-sound system components, including evaluation, need to be called to task. Apparently this is a common strand in thinking because State Departments of Education, chairs in the Legislatures and Governors have dumped the responsibility for solving the high-stakes test controversy on other state entities. As seen from a non-political point of view, it appears the State Departments of Education do not always perform as the voters had intended, thus the controversy.

In Arizona, at least, our "great" education leaders feel they can sit back in their politically-comfortable postures and say, "We are not at fault, since we see nothing wrong; it is up to the State Board of Education to justify our programs and procedures." What the State Board of Education has established, permitted and justified so far is an educational system that is at or near the bottom of state rankings regarding providing for the education of children. We, the people, cannot be complacent with the continuation of policies, programs and procedures which continually fail our students, educators and parents. 

Members of the State Boards of Education, perform your statutory responsibilities and reaffirm your expectations for effective performance and accountability from the departments and personnel "in your purview," to use a well-known phrase. Many of our children are hurting and not enough people seem to care.

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