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Thompson: Punishing Children to Defeat Adult Opponents

Day_42_Overwhelmed It is bad enough that test-driven reformers have turned schools into venues for high-stakes competition.  New York City seemed to have sunk to the lowest of the low with its market-driven A-F School Report Card, which made bubble-in testing a life or death matter for schools. NYC reformers were not content with giving small schools and charters advantages in their Social Darwinist struggle against regular high schools.  As the Annenburg Foundation's Over the Counter, Under the Radar explained, they overtly damaged schools that were slated for closure by disproportionately assigning high-needs students in those targeted schools, making it inevitable that they would fail their students.  

New York Magazine's Robert Kolter, in The Opt Outers shows that under-the-gun NYC administrators have been pushed to a new nadir of common decency.  Kolter tells the story of Pharez, a third-grader at a school that primarily serves English Language Learners.  It “had surrendered its schedule solely to test prep; teachers spent the entire day teaching almost nothing but material related to the ELA and math exams.” The stress of the non-stop test prep cost Pharez sleep and his appetite. His father said the 8-year-old “was complaining about pains in his back and his head. If it was happening to a college student, I might accept this. But for a child, it was not acceptable, not at all. And so I opted him out.” 

The school made the process difficult for the father. He was pressured by the principal, the principal’s secretary, the PTA president, and the assistant principal.  Pharez had a right to prepare a portfolio in lieu of testing, but they repeatedly ignored requests for help in preparing the portfolio.  On the last day of school, they said Pharez had failed. Kolter recounts more examples of the "inhumane" results of test-driven reform.Still, it is hard to comprehend that any educators, regardless of their motives, would be so cruel to a child. -JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via. 



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