October 27, 2023

Paul Thomas: Testing for Perpetual Education Crisis

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Paul Thomas has long tracked the many ways that reformers try to create anti-public school panic. This is just the latest.

“The administrations in charge,” write Gilles Deleuze in Postscript on the Societies of Control, “never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons” (p. 4).

Deleuze’s generalization about “supposedly necessary reforms” serves as an important entry point into the perpetual education crisis in the US. Since A Nation at Risk, public education has experienced several cycles of crisis that fuel ever-new and ever-different sets of standards and high-stakes testing.

Even more disturbing is that for at least a century, “the administrations in charge” have shouted that US children cannot read—with the current reading crisis also including the gobsmacking additional crisis that teachers of reading do not know how to teach reading.

The gasoline that is routinely tossed on the perpetual fire of education crisis is test scores—state accountability tests, NAEP, SAT, ACT, etc.

While all that test data itself may or may not be valuable information for both how well students are learning and how to better serve those students through reform, ultimately all that testing has almost nothing to do with either of those goals; in fact, test data in the US are primarily fuel for that perpetual state of crisis.

Here is the most recent example—2023 ACT scores:

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