Saturday, January 31, 2015


Frequent readers of this blog will be surprised to learn that I loved high school Biology. It's true, though. I loved Biology because I had a brilliant teacher who made it engaging to everyone, and who clearly loved the subject. And although I dreaded the labs at first, when I realized that the table of guys behind me were waiting to see two girls get squeamish and fail, I dove in with gusto. Funny how that works.

Of all the exams I took in high school, my favorite was the one in Biology, which was called a "lab practical." As a hands on, multi-sensory person I found the lab practical set-up fascinating. We moved to different stations around the room to complete different tasks based on real examples. We even had to close our eyes, stick our hands in a bucket of soapy water, and guess by feeling what was inside. Cool, right?

When I think about what has happened in American education since then, I shudder. The continuing move from authentic teaching and learning to daily prep for meaningless high-stakes testing is gutting our educational system. How on earth will our kids be ready for college, career and life after this?

Brothers and sisters, life is not a high-stakes, standardized test. It is a lab practical. Consider your own life and what you do every day. You are learning and doing all the time. You are expected to apply what you know in real life situations. Other than very specific moments in time where you must pass a test for career certification, actual life-after-school is hands-on, practical application which is continually putting to the test how well you learned the lesson, whatever the lesson at hand may be.

The good news is that the number of states willing to administer the newly devised PARCC tests is dwindling. The bad news is that Maryland is still one of them. Please read this article about what is going on in Illinois where the Chicago Public School systems has rejected the administration of PARCC and is at odds with the state department of Education.

Students taking both PARCC mathematics and reading language arts tests will spend more time taking PARCC tests than aspiring lawyers will spend sitting for the Bar Exam with no payoff. This is true in elementary, middle school and high school.


The PARCC test is neither valid nor reliable as a measure. And the reason for that is that it has never been given to a large population. So we’re paying to have a private testing company norm their instrument on the backs of Illinois students. That’s a big problem.

Doctors look to the Hippocratic Oath as they pledge, "first, do no harm." Why is there no such oath for our school systems? Our children are not engaging in valuable assessments. They are being forced to submit. Forced submission is neither a meaningful lesson for life nor a useful preparation for a life in a democratic society.

I applaud the Chicago School system for fighting back and I encourage the Howard County School system to do the same.


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