Public education is becoming more and more standardized. While the benefits and drawbacks may be debatable, the fact that it indirectly disfavors students in poor, often urban school districts is not. Last year was the first time that more than half of Washington, D.C.’s charter school students scored proficient or above in reading on the city’s standardized tests.
With the No Child Left Behind Act mandating annual standardized testing in all states, teachers and students are now measured according to the criteria established by three companies: CTB McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson. These three corporations that create and grade our standardized tests also publish the study materials for them. Strictly speaking, they define comprehension; according to their rules, an answer is not deserving of full credit unless the student can explain it in the correct manner.
Without the proper workbooks and lesson plans, students and teachers do not have the capability to prepare the specific wording and interpretations that these corporate graders seek. In turn, without the proper resources, school districts can neither buy nor manage the book stock required.
Meredith Broussard, a mother and data-journalism professor, created a program for the Philadelphia public school system to determine a more comprehensive curriculum for individual schools. Her research concluded that an average school had about 27 percent of recommended books, at least 10 schools did not have any books and most schools possessed outdated materials. This was only one of the many holes in the disheveled system she would soon discover. (Read here for her complete story)
Legislation designed to address these problems often fails because there are simply too many holes in the system.
Change should begin at the root. Standardized testing should not be the foundation of public education unless public education can realistically afford it. It’s not about the star student or the exemplary teacher anymore, but about the community, which is in dire need of both resources and advocacy.
But it is where we start. A more equal tomorrow starts with a dedicated today.