THE BLOG

No Child Left Behind: A Threat to National Security

05/25/2011 12:05 pm ET
  • Gerald Bracey Fellow at the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University

I wrote this blog mostly quoting other people, mostly people of some stature and note. Bob Sternberg, for instance, is best known for his "tri-archic" theory of intelligence developed during his many years at Yale. Leo Munday was a VEEP at ACT at the time of his quote. The National Academy of Education statement was crafted by Bob Glaser of the University of Pittsburgh, best known for inventing the phrase "criterion-referenced test" in 1962. I wrote the opening and closing paragraphs and constructed the list. Anyone who wishes to add to that list should feel free to do so.

The No Child Left Behind law requires that all children in grades three through eight, plus one grade in high school be tested every year in reading and mathematics. At least 95% of the students must take the test for it to count. Beginning in the 2007-2008 school year, students will also be tested in science.

"Though a certain level of academic talent may be necessary to complete medical school, for example, the grades of medical students appear unrelated to later success as physicians. We conclude academic talent as measured by test scores, high school grades, and college grades is not related to significant adult accomplishment."

Leo Munday and Jean Davis, American College Testing Program Research Report No. 62, 1974.

"Many of those personal qualities that we hold dear, resilience and courage in the face of stress, a sense of craft in our work, a commitment to justice and caring in our social relationships, a dedication to advancing the public good in communal life, are exceedingly difficult to assess. And so, unfortunately, we are apt to measure what we can, and eventually come to value what is measured over what is left unmeasured."

National Academy of Education, 1987

SOME QUALITIES EXCEEDINGLY DIFFICULT TO MEASURE

WITH STANDARDIZED TESTS

Creativity
Critical Thinking
Resilience
Resourcefulness
Civic Mindedness
Motivation
Persistence
Curiosity
Question Asking
Endurance
Reliability
Enthusiasm
Courage
Cowardice
Spontaneity
Planfulness
Self Awareness
Self Discipline
Empathy
Sense of Beauty
Sense of Wonder
Sense of Humor
Compassion
Humility
Arrogance

"We both have meritocracies. Yours is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. There are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well--like creativity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are areas where Singapore must learn from America."

Singapore Minister of Education, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, to journalist Fareed Zakariya, Newsweek, January, 2006

"Just by watching, you can see students are more engaged [than those in Singapore], instead of being spoon-fed all day."

Har Hui Peng, a secondary school educator, one of a group of Singaporean educators visiting Loudoun County, Virginia schools in hopes of learning how to increase creativity in Singapore schools, Washington Post, March 19, 2007.

"In the American school, when my son would speak up, he was applauded and encouraged. Here (Singapore) he's seen as pushy and weird. The culture of making learning something to love and engage in with gusto is totally absent. Here it is a chore. Work hard, memorize, and test well.

Unnamed Singaporean parent to Fareed Zakariya, Newsweek, January 9, 2006.

It took months of badgering before I was able to get my Scottish teenagers to speak up in class. They simply weren't accustomed to asking questions or tossing around their own observations.

American schools teach American kids to ask questions. They teach students to be curious, skeptical, even contrary, to ask for the whys behind the whats in the rote acquisition of facts. At their best, they teach kids to challenge the teachers.

Ami Biancolli, Washington Post, April 27, 2001

"The increasingly massive and far-reaching use of standardized tests is one of the most effective, if unintentional vehicles this country has created for suppressing creativity."

Robert Sternberg, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Tufts University, February, 2006.

The World Economic Forum usually ranks the United States as the most creative and innovative nation in the world and usually number 1 in global competitiveness among the 125 nations it ranks annually. If creativity gives the U. S. its competitive edge--and a lot of people do think so--and if No Child Left Behind menaces that creativity, does it not constitute a threat to national security?