Everywhere you turn these days there are people making a case for doing away with standardized testing. How do you feel about this issue?
The real momentum behind this movement comes from the NEA (the teachers' union). They are working very hard to get their views into every forum they can. Hal Urban, a Redwood City, Calif. teacher, had an essay in a recent issue of Newsweek. The current issue of Ladies Home Journal is filled with anti-testing propaganda. I call it propaganda because it is an orchestrated movement and the reasons behind it have nothing to do with kids and learning and all about making sure you're not held accountable for what students learn in school.
Dave Ziffer is a parent in Batavia, Ill. who ended up homeschooling his daughters until they reached high school; they now attend a private Catholic school. In addition to his real job as a computer consultant, he is now running an after school tutoring program in several western Chicago suburbs using Reading Mastery and Corrective Reading curriculum.
His personal experience with his own children led to his passion for providing affordable effective tutoring for children who might not have access to it otherwise. Following is Dave's letter to the Ladies Home Journal which he shared with me and gave me permission to reprint. He is an eloquent spokesperson for consumers of education everywhere.
"Dear Ladies Home Journal,
As a parent I regularly keep tabs on what the National Education Association (NEA), the world's largest teachers' union, is up to. I do this because the NEA is no friend of American parents or their children.
As the most powerful single force in the public school system, the NEA has one central purpose, which is to increase the strength of its already nearly-total stranglehold on the American K-12 education industry (i.e. our public schools). Its primary vehicle for increasing its own power is to lobby state and federal legislatures to enact laws that would disempower parents, reduce accountability for NEA members, and increase funding for the NEA by unconditionally increasing the salaries of its members.
One of the current tactics of the NEA is to disempower parents by discouraging the use of standardized testing. Due to the consistent declines in the quality of public schooling over the past several decades, the federal government and many states have enacted laws and policies designed to help parents compare the quality of public schools.
The primary method of helping parents has been to administer standardized tests to huge numbers of public schools across the states and the nation, and to publish the results of those tests on the Internet so that parents can easily compare schools across neighborhoods, counties, and even states, all using the same sorts of metrics. Most of these testing systems and the Internet itself have come into common use only during the past five years or so. The NEA, which favors seniority pay over merit pay, has little tolerance for informed parents who might question the policies or performance of NEA members.
Informed parents, after all, might start insisting that low-quality teachers be removed regardless of seniority, or that low-quality schools be restaffed or shut down, or that private (possibly non-union) management companies be brought in to manage failed schools or districts. This would ruffle the feathers of NEA members who count on the essentially guaranteed income that their NEA membership ensures them.
Since NEA members have no tolerance for having their performance measured, the NEA has organized one of the most incredibly effective propaganda campaigns in the history of public education. As always with the clever NEA, their arguments are cloaked in the deceptive rhetoric of what is good or bad for the nation's children. Due to its enormous ability to exert control over both the educational and popular media (in part through the gullibility and misplaced trust of those media), the NEA in one short year has managed to equate standardized testing with child abuse in the minds of many parents, educators, and legislators.
This is a sad thing for American parents and their children, since the rise of standardized testing (and the availability of test results on the Internet) is viewed by many parents as perhaps the only objective tool with which they can equip themselves when looking out for the interests of their own children within the public school system.
So it is with great sadness that I see that Ladies' Home Journal has, for one issue at least, been co-opted by the NEA. As the top news item on its Web site (www.nea.org) the NEA is trumpeting its success in infiltrating your magazine. The first "Special Report" in your "Back To School Guide" contains a massively slanted NEA diatribe entitled "The Trouble With Testing," the contents of which I found quite predictable. I find it interesting that your editors would not have noticed the incredible one-sidedness of this trash.
The Ladies' Home Journal has now added its name to the long list of publications that have been used by the NEA in its campaign to convince parents to disempower themselves by eliminating the one tool that has finally allowed them to make objective comparisons of teachers, schools, districts, and states.
Letting the NEA write special features for parents is like inviting the fox to teach the hens about self-preservation. I hope your editors will exercise better judgment in the future.
Thanks to Dave for sharing his letter with readers of the Northwest EXPLORER.