For anyone who wonders what’s powering the virulent opposition to standardized testing, Common Core standards and so-called education reform, Jesse Hagopian’s new book, More Than a Score, will be an illuminating read.
A mosaic of essays from teachers, parents, students and administrators, Hagopian’s work — scheduled for release by Haymarket Books in December — is a polemic. The Garfield High School history teacher who attracted national attention for helping to rally Seattle educators in a boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test believes those who value testing as a measure of student achievement are not merely possessed of a different viewpoint, but flat-out driven by dollars.
He may have a point. Bill Gates is quoted promoting the Common Core for creating “a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.”
Slamming this approach, Hagopian presents testimonials from students in Portland, parents in New York and administrators in Austin, all of whom rail against the mass testing that comes with Common Core. He has an essay from Diane Ravitch, assistant secretary of education under the first President Bush, who once supported No Child Left Behind.
All support Hagopian’s overarching thesis that education reform is designed mainly to help U.S. corporations dominate global markets.
That lack of nuance will lead some to dismiss More Than a Score. But Hagopian backs his assertions with solid sourcing, and he makes some important points. In particular, the fact that standardized tests necessarily label any student a failure who falls below the median and so train all of them to “live in fear of making mistakes.”
What is unfortunate, especially for an author who espouses inquiry, is a tone that brooks no compromise and paints those with a different interpretation as bad guys. Hagopian dubs the reformers — among them, Gates, Eli Broad, Pearson Publishing and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan – the testocracy, and says their sole objective is to “replace the compassionate hand of the educator with the cold, invisible, all-thumbs hand of the free market.”
Still, the “testocracy” gained a foothold because too many kids were graduating from America’s schools unable to read or make correct change — if they graduated at all. While Gates and friends may not have all the right answers, can’t we talk about why they asked the questions?