Monday, October 11, 2010

C’mon, Charlie Brown, Kick the Ball!
School Testing, a Disappointment

Charlie Brown, the protagonist of most of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts cartoon strips, allows himself, time after time, to be duped by another character, Lucy Van Pelt, into trying to kick a football she is holding in place for him. Inevitably, she snatches the ball away at the last second and the momentum of his failed kick dumps Charlie Brown on his back.

Two practices in United States Education have gone on for a long time, leaving mostly disappointment as their residue:
a. new school superintendents are hailed in the media as saviors and their possible future school successes are treated not as aspirations but as fait accompli accompanying the superintendent’s arrival.

b. People in high places accept and celebrate, even, school self-reported gains in school test results even though external testing experts caution all not to make too much of what they are seeing. (The New York Times, A1 (10/11/10) reports on another set of footballs snatched away before they were kicked. See “Warning Signs Long Ignored On New York City’s School Tests.”)

These two habits are no more than another manifestation of an in-grained American cultural tic: the triumph of hope over experience. And these persistent attempts to kick the-football-that-wasn’t-there may be the best explanation why the kids’ achievement in school seems so low.

To examine these issues further, see Justice Through Testing

--- EGR

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