The scale of the testing scandal in Atlanta and other places is shocking to some, but not to me. The NCLB has put such fear into the hearts and minds of administrators that they are doing things that don't make sense for public school educators, who in their hearts should care about their children in the long run - really care for their learning - not for the short term survival of the schools. In the long run, this really hurts kids, who aren't getting the remediation they need.
Nonetheless, this reveals systemic problems with our American education system. I agree with David Brooks when he points out that testing in itself isn't the main problem - it's the lack of a broader vision and strategy for the districts and its schools that is causing the focus on testing alone. Inner city schools that have been successful - in spite of having to administer high stakes tests - have a broader sense of purpose, a defined philosophy and approach, a rich curriculum, and caring environment. This full-range curriculum can co-exist with testing. In fact, we know that a focus on rote, mechanical test-prep does not improve test scores....kids aren't learning.
While leading Cisco's 21st Century Schools Initiative in the Gulf Coast, I found that the districts who worked with us to create a clear vision and strategy and then ensured that all funding, activity, and accountability aligned with that philosophy, were much more successful in spending Cisco's money for impact and results on a broad range of measures. Some chose to follow Phil Schlechty's approach and others created their own based on clearly articulated research and best practice. Watch Phil's video for inspiration.
Systemic change means just that - change the entire system of leading, learning, and measuring if you expect transformation!