As I read Cohen and Moffitt’s, The Ordeal of Equality, I could not help but make some connections to a recent Schools Matter post on high stakes testing. One of my “favorite” items reprinted was this report from Hartford Courant:
Two teachers and a guidance counselor blinged out in gold chains, sunglasses and running suits will rap about the Connecticut Mastery Test Monday at a rally in a Wolcott school gym to try to get middle school students excited about taking the test.
/”M is for mastery. It means knowing the material!/
/Best go to bed early and have a lot of cereal!”/
Cohen and Moffitt observe, in reviewing the wide gap between policy and practice, and the politics that surrounds both policy development and implementation, how, “Teachers and school managers [try to reduce] the risk of failure [under NCLB] by boosting outcomes without improving learning” (p. 34). Forget that mastery is not easily equated with simply “knowing the material” or that proper (most cereal is not healthy) nutrition the day of testing does not make up for a lifetime or poor nutrition rooted in systemic poverty and the “food” industry.
The larger issue is possibly that such exercises do in fact teach something. These exercises may socialize young people to trivialize what is in fact a crime, a tragedy, and a farce. It is training to accept the irrational as normal and even “fun”. That such shenanigans are presented as sound educational practice and even noble attempts to help kids renders the existing authority compelling these acts completely lacking in credibility. Certainly a different kind of rallying is needed; let’s protest, and let’s affirm our rights.