Demand better pedagogy

I wrote the following letter to the editor in response to the Chicago Tribune’s publication of a long commentary by Michael Bloomberg. (Not surprisingly, it wasn’t printed.)

Michael Bloomberg’s recent opinion piece (Demand better schools, not fewer tests, 10/28/2015) misses an important distinction: American school children are not widgets produced on the assembly line of public education, molded to drive the machine of an “ultracompetitive global economy.”

Rarely do standardized tests offer middle-income, public-school parents much beyond an affirmation that their children can pass a future hiring test. But as a data point, test results are not a useful measure of teacher impact or school effectiveness, to say nothing of the obliquely defined “student success.” For teachers, parents, and students, the goal of U.S. education is to produce an informed citizenry—lifelong learners who can both support themselves and contribute to society.

Indeed, the frenzied competition in American public schools today is no good for anyone, least of all the students it is designed to motivate and educate. For far too many American children—the most at-risk among them—their working futures are determined not by data points on a graph disguised as accountability, but by their ability to feed the profits of the early 21st century American oligarchy.

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