(Denver, Feb. 3) How have the educrats managed to portray decades of educational malpractice as the greatest thing since sliced bread? By systematically debasing four key standards upon which citizens, parents, taxpayers, and elected officials have long relied to make judgments about educational quality: grades, promotion, graduation, and college admission. Note: Dr. William Moloney, Colorado Education Commissioner from 1997-2007, reveals the scandalous effects of debased educational standards in his latest column from Moloney's World. Here is the piece in full:
This year we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of America’s most famous education report: A Nation At Risk. This damning indictment of American public education –“a rising tide of mediocrity” etc.- rightly alarmed the nation and also jump started an educational Age of Reform that has been going on ever since.
The only problem is that a quarter century of effort has failed to reform anything. Despite huge increases in expenditure student achievement has failed to improve and the Achievement Gap has actually gotten worse.
The central reason for this massive dysfunction is the unrelenting hostility -- open and covert -- of the education establishment toward the whole idea of reform. Paradoxically the education reform “movement” has been led by non-educators- elected officials, business people, newspaper editors, and conservative think tanks .
The education establishment hypocritically pays lip service to reform but they commonly represent it as unfair “bashing” or worse an outright “conspiracy to destroy public education”.
When problems cannot be denied -- e.g. appalling urban schools -- the establishment quickly absolves themselves by pointing the finger at poverty, family breakdown or the all-time favorite “not enough money”.
Amazingly, beyond the noted exception of big cities ,the establishment has successfully sold the myth that American public education is in basically good shape, except of course that it’s under-funded.
How have the “educrats” pulled off this massive deception? How have they painted decades of educational malpractice as the greatest thing since sliced bread?
They did it by systematically debasing four key standards upon which citizens, parents, taxpayers, and elected officials have long relied to make judgments about educational quality: grades, promotion, graduation, and college admission.
Historically if a child went to school, behaved well, and worked hard on a rigorous curriculum, that child would predictably get good report cards, promotion, a high school diploma, and eligibility for college admission. At the end they had earned their piece of the American Dream.
For this system to work however it was absolutely essential that the above noted standards rested on measurements that were objective, commonly understood, and rigorously enforced.
Today this system is in near total collapse- more obviously at some schools than others, but no school has been left untouched by this general debasement of standards.
Most sadly, almost all of us know this to be true. We’re not unfamiliar with “grade inflation”, or “social promotion”, or “meaningless diplomas”, or “open admissions”, yet we fail to see that collectively they are a single phenomena which has brought about the absolute implosion of quality in our schools, blinded us to reality, and made us dangerously susceptible to the Kool-Aid of establishment myth-making.
This grand deceit is made possible by the fact that all of the traditional rewards- good grades, promotion, diplomas, and college admission- are still handed out, but they have been drained of all substance and the requirements upon which they depended- discipline, hard work, and rigorous curriculum- are today reduced to an option for the self-motivated few not the universal expectation for all.
For years international comparisons gave clear evidence of American educational decline. This evidence however received limited media exposure and the establishment could brush it aside as “strange tales from strange places”. The advent of state accountability tests -- e.g. Colorado’s CSAP -- however changed the landscape dramatically. These tests received immense media attention, spurred accountability legislation, energized demands for choice, decisively punctured establishment generated complacency, and confirmed what the public had long suspected: the system was broken, and not just in big cities.
The establishment’s anger and resistance to the accountability tests and laws is hugely instructive as is their unyielding determination to repeal or gut them, and return to Lake Woebegone where “all the children are above average”.
If a distracted public allows this unconscionable coverup to succeed we shall have wreaked havoc upon the future of our country and our children.
Those nations who are our 21st-century competitors have carefully nurtured and strengthened their educational standards, while we have merely talked about doing so. William Bennett put the matter well: “We know what’s wrong, and we know what works. What must be answered is whether we have the will and the courage to act upon that knowledge”. Right now the answer is a resounding No.