Friday, November 11, 2005

PEN or NEN?

While the name and the image of the Public Education Network (PEN) are carefully massaged to appear very, uh, public, as in democratic, the lead piece on the weekly Newsblast (posted later today for non-subscribers) would seem to indicate anything but. In an eager embrace here of a national assessment system, and thus a national curriculum (what gets measured gets taught), the PEN is sounding very much like it could have morphed into the NEN (National Education Network). And this comes as PEN's annual conference just wound up in DC, where they spotlighted Margaret Wheatley, who has made a reputation spreading the gospel of self-organizing and autonomous social systems. Ironic, I know. From this week's Newsblast:
President Bush has adopted a strategy of "50 states, 50 standards, 50 tests" -- and the evidence is growing that this approach has not improved student achievement. Americans must recognize that we need national standards, national tests and a national curriculum, writes Diane Ravitch. In her view, too many states have embraced low standards and grade
inflation. In general, Republicans are wary of national standards and a national curriculum, while Democrats are wary of testing in general. Both parties must come to understand that the states are not competing with each other to ratchet up student achievement. Instead, they are
maintaining standards that meet the public's comfort level. America will not begin to meet the challenge of developing the potential of our students until we have accurate reporting about their educational progress. We will not have accurate reporting until that function is removed from the constraints of state and local politics. We will be stuck with piecemeal and ineffective reforms until we agree as a nation that education -- not only in reading and mathematics, but also science, history, literature, foreign languages and the arts -- must be our highest domestic priority.
A very high-sounding kind of, I don't know, national socialist education system? Removing "the constraints of state and local politics"? Or perhaps if you are more libertarian-oriented, you might call it a corporate socialist education system? After all, the two seem to be getting in step with one another, forming a phalanx and goose-stepping into the new millenium of American economic domination.

Has it not occurred to these folks why states are working feverishly to delay the inevitable failure that NCLB guarantees for them--unless the Law is drastically changed or dumped in 2007? As more schools show up on federal fail list, the ed industry sharks and their political whores begin to close in. That's reality.

Embracing Diane Ravitch? Things just got a lot more interesting, and it is even more important now to let PEN, or NEN, whatever they would become, know that they are entirely missing the mark by advocating for a national test, a national curriculum. Fill out that survey today. They had 12,000 completed last year. Make that a drop in the bucket. Send along the link to every person you know who knows what NCLB has wrought.

Remember, PEN?: "The establishment of the Department of Education shall not increase the authority of the federal government over education or diminish the responsibility for education which is reserved to the states."

Jim Horn

1 comment:

  1. Jim,

    Creativity and ingenuity, what has traditionally been America's greatest strength may be doomed if the cookie cutter crowd screaming "one assessment fits all" gets the upper hand. I have no problem with some use of selected standardized tests but there must be balance.

    Yesterday one of our best teachers and instructional "coaches" was bemoaning what she is starting to see as curriculum reductionism and liimited use of alternative instructional methods because teachers are perceiving their main role is to simply cover the specific subskills of specific indicators that they hope are being tested.

    I linked to your post over at The Super's Blog.

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