Home > Uncategorized > Here’s How Privatization of Public Education Is Sold… and it Starts With Standardized Testing

Here’s How Privatization of Public Education Is Sold… and it Starts With Standardized Testing

January 17, 2016

Earlier this month Valerie Strauss offered space to blogger Marion Brady who shared his analysis on how for profit charters promote the privatization of public schools. Before reprinting Brady’s post on “the snookering process” privatizers follow she described privatization concisely:

What is school privatization? It is part of a larger campaign to diminish public institutions by contracting out to the private, for-profit sector jobs and responsibilities of the public sector. School vouchers and charter schools run by for-profit companies are seen as part of the school privatization movement, which critics say will ultimately undermine the country’s democracy.

Brady opens with the privatizer’s pitch:

 (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.

The linchpin to the pitch is standardized testing… and Brady’s post underscores the flaws of of standardized testing concluding his argument against testing with this paragraph:

If you want to avoid cranking out the usual amateurish drivel about standardized testing that appears in the op-eds, editorials, and syndicated columns of the mainstream media, ask yourself a few questions about the testing craze: (a) Should life-altering decisions hinge on the scores of commercially produced tests not open to public inspection? (b) How wise is it to only teach what machines can measure? (c) How fair is it to base any part of teacher pay on scores from tests that can’t evaluate complex thought? (d) Are tests that have no “success in life” predictive power worth the damage they’re doing?

These are all questions posed by other bloggers (myself included)… but reading them in one paragraph hit more for me. Brady concludes his post with this:



Notwithstanding their serious problems, America’s public schools were once the envy of the world. Now, educators around that world shake their heads in disbelief… as we spend billions of dollars to standardize what once made America great—un-standardized thought.

A salvage operation is still (barely) possible, but not if politicians, prodded by pundits, continue to do what they’ve thus far steadfastly refused to do—listen to people who’ve actually worked with real students in real classrooms, and did so long enough and thoughtfully enough to know something about teaching.

The salvage operation just experienced a setback when ESSA, which sustained the standardized testing mandate for grades 3-8, passed with much fanfare because of its bi-partisan support. MAYBE some state will listen to teachers as it develops metrics and place standardized tests on a back burner where they rightfully belong and give teachers a greater voice.


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