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The Washington Post editorial board chastised Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam for admitting that the NCLB reforms have failed, and Virginia needs to find a new paradigm for school improvement.
Lt. Governor Northam’s opponent, GOP functionary Ed Gillespie, is running on a Trump kiss-up platform, calling for the protection of Confederate statues and accusing Northam of having ties to a violent gang of Latinos, MS-13.
No doubt Gillespie will endorse the NCLB approach beloved by the Washington Post editorial board.
The Post is dead wrong. A new book by the eminent Harvard testing expert Daniel Koretz says in no uncertain terms that NCLB test-based accountability was a failure that seriously damaged American education. It is titled “The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better.” The high-stakes testing mandated by NCLB and now the Every Student Succeeds Act, produced, in Professor Koretz’s words, score inflation, cheating, and teaching to the tests. Any “gains” are an illusion, because they represent test prep, not learning. (My review of the book will appear in “The New Republic” in the next few weeks.)
Lt. Gov. Northam is right. The Washington Post is seriously out of step on education. It supported Michelle Rhee’s punitive, test-focused regime and never admitted its error, long after John Merrow revealed the D.C. cheating scandal and long after Rhee slipped quietly into oblivion.
What’s the ideal accountability system? Northam admitted to the editorial board that he doesn’t know. Professor Koretz admitted he doesn’t know either. He throws out some ideas drawn from Finland, the Netherlands, and Singapore. There may be others as well, but frankly no one knows. For sure, the Washington Post editorial board doesn’t know, and the little it knows is wrong.
What doesn’t work is one-size-fits-all standards like Common Core. What doesn’t work is promising rewards or threatening punishment to teachers and principals, tied to test scores. Yet that is what the Washington Post advocates: Test-based accountability has failed, but the Post says, “stick with it.” The Post is wrong.
If you live in Virginia, vote for Northam for Governor, not the guy who has wrapped his arms around Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos and the others in the Trump Clown Car.