Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Understanding the Big Picture

Often when the government introduces a new idea, we look at just that small slice and form an opinion. That's natural, but understanding the bigger picture often changes opinion. I'm hoping that will be the case as parents put the pieces together and begin to understand the bigger picture on national testing and career majors. I don't pretend to understand all the pieces myself, but by writing what I know others can add their facts and we all will get a better understanding.

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post shares some interesting quotes from various sources on national testing,

Charles E. Smith, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP, said many state officials tell him they are moving toward
the national benchmarks.

Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Fordham Foundation, a former Reagan administration official and one of the architects of the NAEP standards in 1990, said creating a national test would be difficult. "But I think it's a manageable hurdle, especially with presidential leadership," he said."There's an assumption around that national standards are political suicide even if they make educational sense," Finn said. "We need to bust through that."

Musick said he believes the best way to introduce national tests would be in a few high school subjects, such as first- and second-year algebra.

The question isn't whether politicians have the political will implement the exam, but do parents have the personal will to stop it? That will only happen if parents understand what is at stake.

In a hopeful sign, parents in Oregon are telling the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "not so fast" to their reforms. They were trying to implement smaller schools within the local high school.

The complaints were so strong that a Gates-backed nonprofit group withdrew a grant worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, citing the lack of community support.
They objected for more personal reasons, but they were effective.

However, parents in Florida are going right along with the plans. The small school within a school concept also known as career acadamies is moving forward with students required to declare a career for the first time this year.

"It's fair to say we'd like to make high school more like college," said Cathy chroeder, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, "and middle school more like high school."
The long term plan is to implement career academies in high schools across the nation. The students would follow a four year track of career training with studies concentrated in their chosen field. A national test is pivotal to credential the students in their career major in order to manage the workforce and the economy.

Homeschoolers who believe that being exempt from reforms that include career academies and a national exam will exempt us from the consequences better think again. Without the required credentials homeschoolers will face a competitive disadvantage in admissions, scholarship, and career placement. Those with the "right credentials" will be given preference. This is being billed as a necessary step to curb the status dropout rate at the high school level. The state defines the status dropout rate as,

The percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who are out of school and who have not earned a high school credential, such as a General Educational Development (GED)
credential, is called the status dropout rate.
Notice a dropout is not one who fails to "graduate" but one who has not earned the requisite "credential". Using that definition, every homeschool graduate will be a "dropout" unless they take the state mandated exam and obtain the credential. (Do read the personal account of "dropout" Kimberyly Marciniak's refusal to comply with the Texas test.)

This is social engineering with the goal of tailoring the children toward the needs of the state not the dreams of the child. That may suit our Asian and European couterparts quite well, but it just doesn't fit here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Update: Star Parker at Town Hall chimes in and asks, "Where's the courage in education reform." It's worth a read.

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