A Few Thoughts on the Testing Crisis and Attacks on Public Education

1. Although there is no evidence that a stagnant public school system has been a major cause of growing poverty and inequality in the United States- which is in large part caused by wage compression, outsourcing of jobs,  regressive tax policies and the burdens imposed by a huge and expensive prison industrial complex- many liberals have decided that a revamped and privatized public education system, carefully monitored and regulated by the federal government, represents out the only realistic hope of breaking the cycle of poverty. This is partly wishful thinking, but it also represents a cold assessment of political reality, because liberals view school reform is the only anti-poverty strategy that has any hope of gaining bi-partisan support.

2. Once you decide to make the schools the major instrument of reducing inequality, your focus inevitably turns to teachers and teachers unions, who, in stead of being seen as allies in this effort, are increasingly seen as obstacles to the great national crusade. Many liberals have convinced themselves that if teachers feet are not held to the fire by nationally mandated tests and test based evaluations, they will spend their time baby sitting low income students rather than teaching them. This pessimistic assessment of the nation’s teaching force underlies every pronouncement of the Duncan headed US Department of Education, who sees teachers as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

3. We have now had nearly 15 years ( since 2011) of the bi-partisan school reform crusade launched by No Child Left behind, and by every indicator- from child poverty, to racial wealth gaps, to housing quality and distribution of income across the racial and economic spectrum- poverty and inequality have grown in the US. Has this led liberals to question using Test based school reform and attacks on teachers and teachers unions as their major strategy for achieving equity? No! To judge by what is happening in New York State with Governor Cuomo, and in the US Department of Education, they are doubling down on failed policies.

4.Eventually, the nation will wake up to the fact that School Reform is a disastrous anti-poverty strategy, especially when that strategy involves deluging schools with tests, closing neighborhood public schools and terrorizing, scripting and micromanaging teachers, but by that time, the nation’s public schools may have suffered near fatal damage.

Time is short. Many conservatives see the damage imposed by excessive testing. Liberals had better wake up