Recently the Biden-Sanders Unity Taskforce came up with recommendations for voters to consider this election. While it appears the extreme left has taken the reign on many issues, I will focus on what is recommended for public education. The education portion appears on pp.22-27.
“The evidence from nearly two decades of education reforms that hinge on standardized test scores shows clearly that high-stakes annual testing has not led to enough improvement in outcomes for students or for schools, and can lead to discrimination against students, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, low-income students, and English language learners.
“Democrats will work to end the use of such high-stakes tests and encourage states to develop evidence-based approaches to student assessment that rely on multiple and holistic measures that better represent student achievement.”
It looks like Democrats want us to forget that during the Obama-Biden administration, high stakes testing took a turn for the worse. Under President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan required that a teacher’s evaluation include the outcomes from standardized test scores. Things went from bad to worse.
During the Obama-Biden administration, federal dollars were used to bribe states through the Race to the Top competition to include linking test scores to a teacher’s evaluation. Many of us knew this would be a way to force teachers to follow the dumbed-down curriculum from Common Core.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — provided support for many groups pushing these ideas. The Gates Foundation was the big funder of the Common Core standards. Now the Biden-Unity Task Force claims this kind of high-stakes testing led to …”discrimination against students, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, low-income students, and English language learners.”
You will notice that they do not remind you how they were responsible for these discriminatory education reforms that brought about the demise of the teaching profession and public schools. Now they are going to offer you a new promise with new ideas that are not proven successes. Many parents are not familiar with this history, and they may see this statement and think it will bring about positive changes in public education. Those of us who research education have seen this game play out too many times.
When Standardized Tests Were Helpful
Many of us grew up taking standardized tests in school. It was a snapshot for parents, teachers, and school administrators to analyze. They could look for trends to make adjustments to the curriculum, or in some cases, parents could see that their child may have needed additional help. Standardized achievement tests offered something positive for schools and parents.
No Child Left Behind changed all of that when bureaucrats decided to use the standardized test for accountability purposes. Schools also began shifting away from achievement tests to psychometric assessments, which are different from achievement tests. The psychometric assessments grade your child’s values, attitudes, and dispositions. Parents and teachers started to revolt a few years ago.
Two decades of education reforms that relied upon high-stakes annual testing did not help improve student outcomes. Now, according to the Biden-Sanders Utility Task Force Recommendations, this led to issues with discrimination, but they fail to take responsibility for their part in all of this.
Democrats will end the use of high-stakes testing and encourage (which could mean bribe or coerce) states to develop evidence-based approaches to student assessments that rely on multiple measures to grade achievement.
Again, they fail to mention that the federal law that replaced No Child Left Behind, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was signed into law by Democrat Senators in 2015 and signed by President Obama. ESSA kept the high-stakes testing.
Harry Browne, Libertarian, once said,
“The government is good at one thing. It knows how to break your legs, and then hand you a crutch and say, ‘See if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.”
Obama-Biden, along with Democrats, made sure public education was broken. Now they want to hand us a crutch.
We’ve had a glimpse of how this crutch looks. We’ve seen it in New Hampshire with the PACE assessments. PACE assessments graded competencies, but competency-based grading blew up when school administrators tried to implement it. The top-down approach to grading had parents in New Hampshire angered once again.
The grading went from objective grading to subjective grading. No longer were students graded on academic content, but their dispositions would be graded too. This is precisely the opposite of what legislators had in mind when they voted to implement Competency-Based Education in New Hampshire. I sat through the hearing and listened to legislators make very clear that they did not want dispositions graded, yet that’s what we have in place.
Competencies will eventually turn into blockchains. The blockchain will be a digital portfolio that reveals what students have mastered. But remember, grading now includes a student’s values, beliefs, and dispositions. No longer will this portfolio provide information on whether your child mastered math concepts; it will reveal their emotions and social competencies. We already see Social and Emotional competencies graded in New Hampshire.
These portfolios will include a psychological profile on your child. SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) is the definition of mental health. When this information is included in your child’s records, who will have access to it? We are already told that college admissions directors are reviewing competencies of students attending New Hampshire Schools.
Joe Biden is committed to moving this education reform forward. A decade of dumbing down the public schools and driving parents to seek alternatives has done nothing to stop these reformers from further hurting public education in America. The fact that he can’t take responsibility for his part in hurting public education and the teaching profession should tell you that he should never be given this responsibility again.
If career politicians couldn’t fix it when they held power for eight years, what makes anyone think he can fix it now? Whoever is writing his script wants you to forget the damage they’ve done to the public schools and introduce more reforms that will do nothing to improve them. This is something to remember in November.
Like the failures from No Child Left Behind, ESSA is 1061 pages of federal intrusion into our classrooms. If he cared about public education, his focus would be on repealing ESSA.