For many public school students and perhaps for teachers as well, April is the cruelest month of the school calendar. April days that are not devoted to 'test prep' are spent on testing itself. And some of what is going on in this crazy month defies the imagination.
We need to make it more difficult to become a teacher, which we could do by raising standards for admission into training programs and then providing one-year apprenticeships before teachers are given their own classrooms.
"My son can't sleep at night." Why? "Because his teacher told him that he had to do well on the tests this week or she would be fired.." Scaring the sleep out of a child is surely an example of distortion and corruption. So too is firing people based on the snapshot of one day's bubble test score.
Schools today must provide opportunities for young people to create knowledge out of the swirling clouds of information that surround them 24/7. You went to school because that's where the knowledge was stored. That was yesterday.
Who have been the primary beneficiaries of "school reform?" Duh, the for-profit companies! While consultants and think tanks have done OK, the real money has been in testing and textbooks and technology and construction.
I am still searching for the one right word to describe teachers today. Reviewing the candidates: competitors, policemen, social workers, surrogate parents, counselors, health care providers, nutritionists and ringmasters.
One of the best ways to see what is happening in education is with documentaries and videos and one of the best creators of these documentaries is outstanding education reporter John Merrow on Learning Matters.
Madeleine Albright said a special place in Hell was set aside for successful women who refused to help other women succeed. An even hotter spot should be reserved for those who knowingly cheat children out of a decent education and lie to them about their achievements.
Our public schools are the equivalent of yesterday's pony express. Just as a faster pony express would not be sufficient to deliver the mail today, the "faster horses" that reformers represent are not in themselves adequate for our 50 million school-age children, nor will they ever be.
While a staggering 91 percent of African American boys are below grade level in reading in third grade, this is not a racial issue. It's a national crisis: 83 percent of ALL low-income children are behind.