Kansas should put end to testing nonsenseBy Walt Chappell
Recent ads in Kansas newspapers have told the truth about the unacceptable level of reading and math scores for Kansas students. Yet for the state education commissioner (March 20 Opinion) and education lobbyists to continue to deny these documented results from Kansas schools is a disservice to our students, their parents and taxpayers. This massive cover-up has gone on for years and needs to stop.
All outside indicators of how well our schools are doing show that the federal No Child Left Behind mandates have been a major disaster and a tremendous waste of taxpayer money.
Our students are not dumb; plus, our teachers and school administrators are doing what they have been told. But largely because of these bureaucratic regulations, most students who graduate from America’s schools have not been taught the employable skills needed to compete for jobs in the global economy.
This is not just a Kansas problem. Anyone willing to look at the facts can see that major changes must take place in how we teach America’s children the concepts and skills they need to be productive adults. Yet the federal and state education bureaucrats and their lobbyists keep claiming that there is nothing wrong with public education – just give them more money to spend.
Since the Montoy court decision in 2005, the Legislature has appropriated $1 billion more for schools. But for the past 10 years, national achievement tests still show that only about a third of our students are “proficient.” With this new money, Kansas school districts hired more than 6,000 new employees. And since 2005, they had accumulated $868 million in unspent cash balances – an increase of 90 percent. Clearly, spending more tax dollars is not the answer to higher student achievement.
In Kansas and the nation, 1 in 4 students does not graduate. Of those who do graduate and go to college, more than 30 percent need remediation. Only half finish college, yet most end up with huge student loans to repay.
A national commission has reported that 30 percent of high school graduates do not score high enough on aptitude tests to qualify to join the military. And because the No Child Left Behind emphasis is only on teaching and testing reading and math, few students graduate with knowledge or skills for any other career.
Clearly, the NCLB mandates from federal bureaucrats are failing to prepare our students and putting our teachers in a “no-win” position of “teaching to the test.” But the majority of the Kansas State Board of Education has rubber-stamped the commissioner’s request that Kansas schools comply with the new federal mandate to replace the Kansas standards with something called the “Common Core Standards.”
There is no research to show that these standards will improve student achievement or that they are more relevant to what students need to learn. Like the NCLB law, they will force teachers in every school to focus primarily on just reading and math so students can pass computerized national tests, which will replace the state assessments. As a result, there will be less time to teach all other subjects such as science, technology and careers.
The Legislature and local school boards need to be strong and say “enough of this nonsense.” The NCLB law has not worked, and the Common Core Standards will be more of the same – but worse.Walt Chappell of Wichita is a member of the Kansas State Board of Education.
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