Well, actually, she commented on a comment of mine on someone else’s blog, which led me to finding her book, here:
Have you seen it yet? Have you read it yet?
It is a brilliant first-hand account of the school “reform” process from the receiving end, with a logically presented sequence of analyses, intertwined with actual happenings and incidents which make your hair stand on end.
The often believed statement “Corporate school reformers were once open about their belief that public education was hopelessly broken” she argues is simply untrue, but that this was what they wanted others to believe. They didn’t have to.
Her story covers the years from 1995 to the present, and shows the full depth of mayhem caused by the “reform” movement.
Her account of the not too imaginary classroom where all the time is taken up following all the edicts and mandates that there is no time to actually do any teaching. It is priceless.
Here is a section on one of the many stupidities encountered:
Frantically written upon demand by an evidently unbounded
wellspring of young hires, a torrent of suddenly created
district exams gushed up in a manner which soon began to feel
truly magical. And, as was becoming rapidly apparent, actually
understanding many of these precipitately manufactured tests?
Called for just a touch of magic as well.
Pushed repeatedly into the role of test graders, it wasn’t long
before a diversely collected school personnel began to comment
upon, and even argue about, not only the point value attached
to student responses but, more and more frequently, to the
tangible intentions behind the intricately worded test questions
“Help!” I whispered to a grading partner one afternoon.
“Do you have any idea what this means?”
Sliding a test booklet across the table, I pointed to an essay
prompt so convoluted that I could make little sense of it:
“In what way does this story’s diction create foreshadowing while
working sympathetically inside the author’s choice of syntax?”
My students – well, if we were being very optimistic, at
least a couple of them – possibly knew what diction, foreshadowing,
and syntax meant. But even I didn’t know how to combine
these three uniquely discrete elements in a logical response for
this tortuous prompt. I struggled with my conscience, tempted to
give full credit to the student who had written simply, and I thought most reasonably:
“I don’t know what the fuck this is talking about.”
Another student, less inclined to waste words?
Had printed more succinctly: IDK.
I Don’t Know.
Well damn, kid, me neither.
Holding little patience for those old-school processes so
monotonously tied to a methodically careful (and oh-so-tedious)
analysis, as the years bent to the magic of no-waiting transformations
systematically edged out an educator resistance, it was
rapidly determined that a test question ambiguity (up to and including
plainly misleading typos) did not, actually, invalidate
tests. Nor, subsequently, nullify an endlessly collected testing
data. Specifically hired to address issues of examination, testing
experts were ready to advise; expressly versed in party line, assuredly
and absolutely they always knew the answer. Every single
Oh, it was magical.
They could simply walk over and show you. “See?” Here
they could point with an absolute confidence to the official answer
sheet. “It’s right here,” they could tell you. “The answer is: D.”
Or: No change.
In years now gloriously imbued with the high brilliance of
an instantaneous reformation, all you ever really had to do? Was
close your eyes. And, then, clicking your heels together: Believe.
Believe, as you took your first frightening step over an unknowable
cliff; believe, as anxiously you began to flap your arms; believe,
as apprehensively you started to fly alongside in a blind
Believe, absolutely and without reservation?
In the answer sheet.