Sunday, February 22, 2015

Banging Coconuts Together Again

"You've got two empty halves of coconut, and you're bangin' 'em together." - Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I have spent some time recently trying to compose something on the topic of standardized testing in our public schools.  The time to begin these tests is nearly here again in Indiana.  It has been a divisive topic in the media thanks in large part to our state's political machinations in regard to public education. There simply doesn't seem to be anything fresh to report.  Oddly this strange condition has not burdened many others who are writing daily on the topic.

I investigated the political opinions being aired and decided they needed to keep hanging on the line.  I dug into the past of educational testing, found the research that others freely and selectively borrow from without citing their sources, and gradually came to a surprising conclusion of my own.  The debate is always the same.

There are a few points I can be sure of after my recent efforts.  No one is changing the dialogue of the debate.  No one is making significant progress toward meaningful change.  And no one who tries to introduce enlightened dialogue into the debate will go unpunished.  With that theme in mind, and in honor of standardized testing throughout our great land, please consider what might need to be done if you discover you are riding a dead horse. 

The Official and Expertly Researched Public Education Response

  1. Upgrade the whip. This is a best practice, and is, therefore, non-negotiable. Upgrade may include reclassification as riding crop.
  2. Change the rider.  This can be achieved easily by revising the by-laws regulating riders.
  3. Remind everyone that this is the data-driven technique.  We always ride dead horses.
  4. Form a committee to analyze the horse.
  5. Investigate how other school districts manage their dead horses.
  6. Rewrite the protocols for proclaiming horses dead.
  7. Pilot programs, spearhead taskforces, form committees, and poll stakeholders for the purpose of reviving the dead horse.
  8. Design workshops, schedule trainings, and lead professional development meetings to instruct in the riding of dead horses.
  9. Analyze the data available on dead horses in order to create a benchmark.
  10. Hire experts to determine how best to ride a dead horse.
  11. Increase the length of the track the horse is on to gain more comprehensive data.
  12. Reduce the length of the track the horse is on to be compassionate and reasonable.
  13. Declare that progress is being made in the science of dead horse management.
  14. Overhaul the service requirements for horses.
  15. Publicize the gains made since last year's ride.
  16. If no improvements are evident, refer back to response one.
Outstanding educators everywhere, do what you do.  That hollow thumping sound you keep hearing should stop in about a month. Until then, carry on.

*Adapted from "Business Wit" ,These Strange German Ways; Susan Stern, Atlantik-Bruecke, 2000

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