I urge you to read both all of this blog entry by Tucker, as well as the previous one to which he points.  They are powerful.

I am going to push fair use by quoting two more paragraphs that are important:

Imagine what a good doctor would think if he or she were told that the problems in our healthcare system would be solved if only doctors were publicly branded with an A, B or C grade by some external authority using only numbers generated by computers based only on two absurdly limited dimensions of healthcare outcomes.  Suppose all the talk of improving healthcare came down to getting rid of bad doctors, but the government was doing almost nothing to improve the quality of new doctors.  What do you think young people at the top of their high school graduating classes would think of the medical profession as an option if they saw all these punitive actions being taken against doctors, if they saw that, increasingly, doctors had less and less control over their work and young doctors were not making enough money to support a family?  What do you suppose doctors would think if hospital administrators got together and decided that the answer to the country’s healthcare problems was to use a 49-page evaluation rubric to evaluate all the doctors admitted to practice at that hospital?Test-based accountability and teacher evaluation systems are not neutral in their effect.  It is not simply that they fail to improve student performance.  Their pernicious effect is to create an environment that could not be better calculated to drive the best practitioners out of teaching and to prevent the most promising young people from entering it.  If we want broad improvement in student performance and we want to close the gap between disadvantaged students and the majority of our students, then we will abandon test-based accountability and teacher evaluation as key drivers of our education reform program.

Let’s be clear.  As Diane Ravitch and others have pointed out, our current program of educational reform is being pushed by a false narrative, one that has roots going back more than half a century, but which took on particular momentum with the publication of A Nation At Risk by the Reagan administration in 1983.  The argument then is that our educational system was going to cripple our economy – except that our economy has done better than some of the nations that were supposed to be our examples, and some of them – China and Korea for example – are now moving away from what they had been doing and moving more in the direction of the best American thinking on education, dating back to John Dewey and running in our own time through the work of people like Linda Darling-Hammond.  As Pasi Sahlberg, the great expert on Finnish education has noted, much of what that small nation has done in creating its own highly regarded educational system has been based on the work of American thinkers too often ignored by the “reformers” driving American educational policy, a policy that Sahlberg has labeled the Global Education Reform Movement, which is infecting much of the rest of the world as well.  In fact, not only did our economy not crash as predicted in 1983, but we now have the highest graduation rate we have ever had, and on NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) the scores of ALL sub groups have improved, even as some of so-called achievement gap persists, but that is more a function of the continuation of poverty.  Let’s be clear:  the major problem in American education is the persistence of American poverty.  Finland has less than 5% of it students in poverty. In America more than 20% are in poverty, and national in public schools it is about half.  American schools with less than 10% of students in poverty outperform Finland.  Yet we still do not address the underlying causes of poverty, which is increasing.  At the same time we narrow the education students in schools with high degrees of poverty to little more than drill and kill and test prep, robbing them both of the excitement of real learning and the opportunity to expand their horizons through things like music and art.  We are resegregating our schools, now by economics as well as race.Tucker is not opposed to “accountability” (although I, like many teachers, think that word has been so distorted I refuse to use it – I am responsible for what I do, but I share the responsibility for my students’ learning with others, including them, including their families).  He wonders

what would accountability look like if we actually regarded our teachers as professionals doing professional work, instead of interchangeable blue-collar workers doing blue-collar work?

Yesterday our acting superintendent and two assistant superintendents were visiting our building and stopping into classrooms, including mine during an AP Government class.  What they saw happening was not something that is mass-produced.  They saw exchanges between me and my students that depended upon my knowing not only their names but how they might react to certain questions and challenges, that further depended upon the sense of trust we have built where they know it is not only safe to risk a wrong answer but in fact is an important way of expanding one’s knowledge and understanding.  As a result, they also saw higher level thinking going on, not merely parroting back preselected answers to narrow questions that promote convergent thinking – you know, like you would get on most multiple choice tests.Where I would disagree somewhat with Tucker is in his characterization of blue collar work.  I agree with Professor Mike Rose of UCLA that that misunderstands the intellectual content of much of what we demean and denigrate as manual labor.

In the old days, IBM punch cards said “do not fold, spindle or mutilate.”  That was because the machinery could not handle punch cards that were not narrowly standardized.

But our students are not punch cards.  They are not standardized, nor should they be.

They are unique, individual, precious.

What we do as teachers should include exposing them to important elements of common culture, but should also require us to recognize them as individuals.

Perhaps it is because I spent more than 20 years working with computers before I became a teacher I take the role of teacher as seriously as I do.

Perhaps it is because I know enough educational history to have been able to predict much of what has happened in the past 30 years, and that each iteration since ANAR in 1983 –  Goals 2000, NCLB, Race to the Top, etc. – would simply compound the errors and yet ironically be used to justify doing more of the same while we cheated our students of the education and learning to which they should be entitled and began destroying teaching as a skilled profession and public schools as institutions of the comon good.

Tucker’s blogging is, given who he is, of importance.

The piece I address in this post is thoughtful and well written.

It is unfortunate that I have no hesitation in saying it will be ignored by those driving our public education system into ruin.  You know, the likes of Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush and the usual suspects.

Still, read Tucker.  If you engage in discourse about public education, you should pay attention to what he has written.