Could Arnold Schwarzenegger be stepping down as California Governor in time to star in “Terminator Five: Machines Conquer the Classroom.” Don’t expect a cute sequel to “Kindergarten Cop.” It will be no laughing matter when machines take over our children’s education.
Assessment will become so pervasive that the student will not even be aware of it! This statement from a KSDE staffer at August’s State Board meeting draws a picture of the future as seen by education futurists. Continuous computerized assessment, all-testing-all-the-time, is the next reform in the centralized curriculum movement.
This is not just talk. In August, assessment surveys, studies, and implementations made up half of the consent agenda. And major money was allocated to move assessment forward.
The staffer described the continuous assessment system vision, where student performances would be uploaded to be compared and analyzed against state or national standards. Tons of data, along with a diagnosis, would then come back to the teacher for individualized student remediation.
Several Board members asked, isn’t this what a good teacher already does in class in direct interaction with students? Seeing a student does not understand in the moment of the lessons?
The reply was that this vision of continuous assessment would ensure that it happened for all. Under the proposed “growth model,” we will move from evaluating a school on the proficiency rates of its students, to evaluating the progress made by each student. It is a return to the individualized and diagnostic teaching of the 1970s, a failed reform that only survived in the IEP’s (individualized educational programs) of special education students.
This threatens a dark age for the quality teachers still left in Kansas classrooms. The professional’s rich and immediate interactions with highly variable students will be replaced by machinery that will reduce all student performances to numbers and reduce all teachers to technicians present only to carry out mechanized prescriptions!
Such robo-teaching is not supported by any research base at all. Before 1990, there were no high-stakes class-specific assessments given outside the teacher’s classroom. Under Quality Performance Accreditation and No Child Left Behind, there has been no bona fide research showing that external testing has improved overall student learning. The questionable increase in narrow reading and math scores have been bought at a far greater cost of narrowing the curriculum and discarding a much fuller education. Dropout rates have accelerated. Fewer students in the 20–25 age cohort are completing college; this is the cohort that is the direct product of NCLB. And most of today’s students won’t do anything without asking “Is this on the test?” External testing has been a disaster.
This new super-assessment reform is about test and computer companies making landfall profits. Continuous testing has been chosen by the governors and rich businessmen, virtually none of whom have been teachers. They are enamored with “data.” They have a blind faith that the solution to all educational problems is “more data” and their orders to the robo-teachers is “drill, baby, drill!”
This reduces teachers to mere technicians, only present in the classroom to receive pre-digested data and diagnoses from above. It dictates the remediation they must teach each student in order to make them all the same. Teachers and students become cogs in one big educational machine.
Kansas and most of the Great Plains have been a holdout to many disastrous reforms. We have not
yet completely committed to all-assessment all-the-time. But if we do, we will see the last shreds of teacher professionalism disappear.