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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Duncan talks eloquently and kids lose

While the testing companies make great profits, the nation’s newspapers, having a vested interest in those profits, tout testing as the country’s salvation. The most visible touter is, of course Secretary of Education Duncan, who gives eloquent speeches that are, of course, printed in the Washington Post (who owns Kaplan Testing) . Here is an excerpt from one of them given in September, together with my comments:

Let’s build a law that respects the honored, noble status of educators – who should be valued as skilled professionals rather than mere practitioners and compensated accordingly. 

Duncan is saying that teachers are wonderful people so therefore it follows that No Child Left Behind is a great law.

Let us end the culture of blame, self-interest and disrespect that has demeaned the field of education. Instead, let’s encourage, recognize, and reward excellence in teaching and be honest with each other about its absence.

Then he says that we should like teachers a lot because they will help raise test scores.

Let us build a law that demands real accountability tied to growth and gain in the classroom – rather than utopian goals – a law that encourages educators to work with children at every level – and not just the ones near the middle who can be lifted over the bar of proficiency with minimal effort. That’s not education. That’s game-playing tied to bad tests with the wrong goals. 

Then he says there should be accountability which is the code word for testing that makes it sound like it doesn’t mean that number 2 pencils and bubble sheets are what education will be all about.

Let us build a law that discourages a narrowing of curriculum and promotes a well-rounded education that draws children into sciences and history, languages and the arts in order to build a society distinguished by both intellectual and economic prowess.

Then he says that the curriculum should be exactly what it always has been and no other ideas will be accepted.

Let us build a law that brings equity and opportunity to those who are economically disadvantaged, or challenged by disabilities or background – a law that finally responds to King’s inspiring call for equality and justice from the Birmingham jail and the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Next he argues that black people should have good schools. Does anyone disagree with that? What is his plan? More testing.

Let us build an education law that is worthy of a great nation – a law that our children and their children will point to as a decisive moment in America’s history – a law that inspires a new generation of young people to go into teaching – and inspires all America to shoulder responsibility for building a new foundation of growth and possibility.

I ask all of us here today – and in school buildings and communities across America -- to roll up our sleeves and work together and get beyond differences of party, politics and philosophy.

Next he argues that a good education law would encourage good people to become teachers. While that is true, he certainly isn’t proposing such a law.

Let us finally and fully devote ourselves to meeting the promises embedded in our founding documents – of equality, opportunity, liberty – and above all -- the pursuit of happiness.

More than any other issue, education is the civil rights issue of our generation and it can’t wait -- because tomorrow won’t wait – the world won’t wait – and our children won’t wait.

Then he equates education with civil rights, which means mostly that he is looking to woo the black vote.

Impressively said. Duncan can sure talk. But the speech means nothing and flies in the face of reality. This is all a justification for continuing the policies of the Bush administration in education. Why would Obama want to do the same thing as Bush did especially when he campaigned against No Child Left Behind as I pointed out earlier? The answer is simple. There has been lots of money invested in testing by powerful players that Obama doesn't want to offend. Sadly, the kids are no one’s main concern.

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