The testing blues

Michael Moore is the master of the subtle conspiracy charge, wherein a cabal is alleged with winks, nods, and innuendos without actually being stated. CNN has learned the lesson well. The cable network is airing a special on high-stakes testing (it premiered May 8 and will be shown again May 14). While brief moments are devoted to explaining how standards and testing can turn around schools, the many teacher diatribes against NCLB and student woes from standardized testing make it pretty clear where America's most trusted name in news stands. The program insinuates that the problems with the Houston school district miracle/myth will be replicated around the country as a result of NCLB. In describing the cheating that occurred, the blame falls not on cheating teachers but on former superintendent Rod Paige and his "reign of terror." In fact, in true Moore fashion, the program seems to suggest a Paige/Bush cabal to fake achievement, win the presidential election, and force testing on the unsuspecting nation. While there are plenty of sad student tales, missing are the stories of those hurt by the old system or helped by the new one. As Manhattan Institute's Jay Greene notes (the program was basically Greene vs. everyone else), "Any system [will] create some sad outcome for somebody," and while just giving everyone diplomas "might help some students, you would hurt many more. And that kind of system is rotten, and it's produced the stagnation that we've had for the last three decades." More disturbing is that this slanted special is a "Classroom Edition" intended to be shown to students. The internet workbook for teachers (see here) asks such questions as, "What do you think are some possible 'unanticipated' social, political, economic or psychological consequences that could occur as a result of high-stakes testing and mandatory retention?" Not that we're telegraphing our punches, mind you.

"High-stakes: the battle to save our schools," CNN, May 8, 2005