The first part of this article was published in the print version of the Denver Post's YourHub.com for Arvada, Wheat Ridge and Westminster on Thursday, March 11, 2011.
No CSAP this year for my daughter!
Yup, high school juniors don't take the CSAP test ... so for the first time in six years I haven't submitted an "opt out" letter to the school principal.
But the curse of CSAP remains. At Pomona High School even for the seniors and juniors not taking the CSAP the next two weeks will result in many days of lost learning time. 'Testing schedules' are in effect ... for six days out of the next ten my daughter and all the juniors and seniors don't go to school until nearly noon, have only one or two classes and it's right back home (or wherever they go after school).
Of course, there was also last week's CSAP pep rally -- maybe some kids learned some cheers -- but more classroom time lost.
Hours and hours of valuable time that students could have been spent learning is spent on CSAP test preparation (ie., 'teaching to the test' also known as 'gaming' the test), rallying for testing, and the testing itself.
In other words, Colorado's kids have been cheated out of days of education. And the point of all this testing? When all is said and done it is about providing politicians and government bureaucrats with an excuse for why their "reform" agenda is failing.
So, whether or not CSAP has started for your student or not, I still encourage parents to remove their child from this anti-learning, demoralizing testing regimen -- opt out now! Here's the web site with the 'opt out' letter you can print to hand to your principal: Coalition for Better Education.
Your child will forever appreciate that you took an extra measure of care and concern for their development and their understanding of the great importance of the "joy of learning" when you said 'no' to the politicians, the educrats and the billionaires by sparing them the oppression of the very flawed CSAP.
In today's Denver Post is an article by Bill Gates agitating for even more taxpayer's money and for even more government effort to be funneled into the failing status quo education plan that he supports.
Take a look at the Gates' exhortation for more of the same ... then my response:
First, Gates repeatedly talks about "measuring" and "metrics" ... what you would expect from a computer software salesman. Millions and millions of dollars are already being siphoned away from actual teaching time into testing and tracking and interpreting and evaluating -- data analysis -- all activities that depend upon computing power. For instance, Colorado is spending $17.4 million for a student data tracking system ... mean while because of the state government's budget crisis untold numbers of teachers will be laid-off. What a deal, the likes of Bill Gates get richer, we get mega-googleplexes of 'data', and fewer teachers to actually teach -- what kind of education policy is that?
Understand that all this emphasis on "measuring" means more administrative bureaucracy and less time and resources for teaching kids.
Second, in the last third of his essay Gates says that we need to find and/or build the "Superman" teacher and let her/him teach all the kids. Thirty or thirty-five kids in an eighth grade pre-algebra class? Hey, no problem for "Superman Teacher!"
Thirdly, maybe in the world of billionaire wizards and corporate educrats this kind of thinking is thought of as 'innovative'. In the real world we know that it is folly to be 'waiting for Superman teacher' ... while at the same time whining that teachers get paid too much already and charging that when teachers bargain collectively they become 'freeloaders' on the taxpayers. Let's see how this works out in attracting the best and brightest into the teaching profession; besides, any working class American over the age of thirty knows that in the real world "superman" who works cheap and can solve all our problems doesn't exist -- most teachers are regular folks doing their best and giving their all, as imperfect as they are (like all the rest of us).
Finally, let's remember that we started this "reform" plan that Gates espouses, the "accountability" and CSAP testing plan when Roy Romer was governor -- a good fifteen or more years ago. It went national a decade ago with Bush's 'No Child Left Behind' and it's been pumped-up even more with Obama's 'Race to the Top'. This so-called "reform" is the education status quo ... and Gate's himself admits that even after spending all this time and money on his version of "reform" that "our percentage of college graduates has dropped compared with other countries" and that "America has spent more and achieved less."
In other words, the plan/philosophy Gates is still promoting is a failure when it comes to educating our kids -- but it has been a windfall for corporations that make money off education and it has resulted in a successful power grab for Washington, D.C. educrats who want to control a nationalized, top-down bureaucracy.
In Colorado, let's hope that our education budget crisis can be used as an opportunity to tell Gates and his minions to take a hike and let us educate our kids the way we want them taught -- by schools we run, by teachers and parents who are directly invested in their own child's learning.