...You Can Understand Our Confusion.

When Administrators preach the need for critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, and creativity in one breath, yet still continue to perpetuate the obsession over test scores, value-added data, and gap closure (as measured by a standardized test and how it relates to a school’s grade card -- I’m not arguing against the need to reach every student), one of two things is happening:

  1. They recognize the real importance in education, but are too fearful or powerless to absolve teachers from being chained to the tests

  2. They’ve heard these great 21st Century learning buzzwords and use them to promote the idea that their school is innovative, but don’t really believe it, or understand it, enough to enact any meaningful change in practice.

In either case, the contradiction sends a clear message to teachers what they should be most concerned about, which unfortunately is not what’s always best for kids.


When I reflect on this issue, I always seem to come back around to this quote by Seymour Papert, 26 years ago:


It is this freedom of the teacher to decide and, indeed, the freedom of the children to decide, that is most horrifying to the bureaucrats who stand at the head of current education systems. They are worried about how to verify that the teachers are really doing their job properly, how to enforce accountability and maintain quality control. They prefer the kind of curriculum that will lay down, from day to day, from hour to hour, what the teacher should be doing, so that they can keep tabs on it. Of course, every teacher knows this is an illusion. It’s not an effective method of insuring quality. It is only a way to cover ass. Everybody can say, “I did my bit, I did my lesson plan today, I wrote it down in the book.” Nobody can be accused of not doing the job. But this really doesn’t work. What the bureaucrat can verify and measure for quality has nothing to do with getting educational results–those teachers who do good work, who get good results, do it by exercising judgment and doing things in a personal way, often undercover, sometimes even without acknowledging to themselves that they are violating the rules of the system. Of course one must grant that some people employed as teachers do not do a good job. But forcing everyone to teach by the rules does not improve the “bad teachers”– it only hobbles the good ones.
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