High-stakes tests and public policy

Why I like to read books is exemplified by the following passage from Collateral Damage by Sharon L. Nichols and David C. Berliner, p. 22

“As a powerful political andeconomic force, these folks (the aging baby boomers) want income and services. They will demand medicl, pharmaceutical, and social services, full payment of social security, and some form of housing support as their income stays relatively fiexed. They may not want to spend, nor will there be much money to spend, on lazy and unappreciative youth, esp youth of color, the offspring of other peoples. For many advantaged people, high-stakes testing separates the deserving poor from the undeserving poor and becomes a policy mechanism to preserve soical status more than a policy to improve our schools.”

My own attempt to show this focused more on the destruction of the public school system. By citing the low test scores of inner-city and minority youth in crumbling school systems and ignoring the generally good job public schools do in reasonably well-off neighborhoods, the NeoCons and other conservatives incite unthinking people to abandon the public schools and call for private enterprises to run the schools, thus playing into the hands of those always looking for new ways to bilk the public.

My explanation did not get much purchase, but now that people have seen what the trusted financial gurus of Wall Street have done to us, they might be more open to the project of setting up massive educational corporations to invest in. The corporations would use proven methods for raising test scores such as screening applicants to the schools, encouraging low scorers to switch to a more “suitable” educational institution aka the struggling public school which is now populated almost entirely by those lowest on the academic and socio-economic rung, and so forth. They will then tout their “excellence” without subjecting their students to real testing which would reveal a shallow education and no doubt a stratified one.

Given what’s happened in the last year and a half in the financial markets, I don’t think my suspicions will be received with that much skepticism.

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