Examining the educational reform movement in England which, in many respects, resembles that of the United States in its reliance on standards and high-stakes accountability, Rustique-Forrester (2005) argues that the unintended consequence of excluding children led to inflated estimates of results in British schools. This is, it seems to me, no surprise. In the United States significant pressure to raise test scores have caused districts to both exclude children from testing and to under-report dropout statistics. Schemo (2003) reported that over half of the 5,500 students that left the Houston, Texas district that should have been declared dropouts were not. Haney (2000) reports that dropout rates for high school students in Texas have increased significantly since 1980 as pressure for standards and accountability have increased.
These are disturbing numbers, especially as one considers that the No Child Left Behind Act (the extension of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) (NCLB) is based on the standards and accountability system put in place by then governor George W. Bush.
There is additional evidence that adherence to standards limits the curriculum to technical aspects of reading and mathematics (arithmetic) while neglecting subjects like science, social studies and history, music, art, literature and physical education. Some have estimated that time spent in preparing students for high-stakes testing may be as much as 90 school days per year, a figure that amounts to one half of an average school year in grades K-12. This leaves precious little time for new instruction while focusing on ways to “beat” the test.
Marzano & Kendall (1998) estimated that if 3 days were needed to teach only national organization standards and 1.5 days were needed to then re-teach those standards, students would be in school from K through grade 22 in order to receive a high school diploma. This estimate does not even attempt to account for state and local standards for which students will be held accountable. Something is drastically wrong with a system that has so little regard for the consequences of the demands it places on teachers and students.
If we are not careful in the United States we will produce an entire generation of Trivial Pursuit players that will be lost forever to the joys of creative thinking and critical aesthetic reading. We are rapidly destroying the intellectual capital that drives the engine of our capitalistic enterprise. In the zeal to improve a system that is said to be broken, something Berliner and Biddle (1995) argue quite effectively simply is not true, Congress and state legislatures may just be the factors that break the American public school system to a point beyond repair. I hope I am wrong.
Berliner, D. C., & Biddle, B. J. (1995). The manufactured crisis: Myths, fraud, and the attack on America’s public schools. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Haney, W. (2000, Aug 19). The myth of the Texas miracle in Education. Retrieved July 22, 2002, from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n41/
Marzano, R. J., & Kendall, J. S. (1998). Awash in a sea of standards. Aurora, CO: Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory.
Rustique-Forrester, E. (2005). Accountability and the pressures to exclude: A cautionary tale from England. Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 13(26).
Schemo, D. J. (2003, July 11, 2003). Questions on data cloud luster of Houston’s schools. New York Times.