Random Thoughts

America….you just don't get it!

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From cbsnews.com Math Tests For Five-Year-Olds?

The experiment could involve tests as long as 90 minutes and change reading assessments for kindergartners through second-graders in the nation’s biggest school system, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has embraced testing. The approach dismays some parents and educators who see it as mechanizing education.

Show me one piece of research that says a 90 minute test is good for a 5 year old? Heck….show me a 5 year old who can sit for 90 minutes!

The Department of Education unveiled the $400,000 program in an e-mail Monday inviting elementary school principals to participate. About 65 principals have expressed interest, and as many as 12,000 pupils may ultimately be involved, said James Liebman, the department’s accountability chief.

Let’s see why would principals be showing interest in testing Kindergardeners? HHHMMMM……I wonder…..$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

…going beyond No Child Left Behind requirements. For each of the city’s more than 1,400 schools, third-grade through 12th-grade test scores factor significantly in letter grades – which can earn principals bonuses or jeopardize their jobs.

And you wonder why you can’t find people to teach in inner city schools.

The school grades and stress on test scores anger some parents and teachers, who say classes are being drained of creativity and reduced to drills on how to ace standardized exams.

Dear Policy makers….please read A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink. Thank You!

The rise of testing in No Child Left Behind’s wake has caused contention nationally. Some studies show students’ math and reading skills have improved, but that schools have cut back on history, music and other subjects.

Seriously….why is this a shock to anyone? We still have an 8 hour school day and we can only teach so much. If we’re going to teach more math and reading than something has to give.

And to think that at one point in my life my wife and I packed up everything we owned into a storage unit and drove to Albany, New York to find jobs. Lived out of our car and a tent for three weeks with no luck before driving back to Washington and getting jobs in Aberdeen and Westpoint.

What’s the reason for this? Really we need to know where kids are in their reading and math? I mean, teachers can’t and haven’t been doing that for…..like……ever?

Here’s the thing….do we really want America to be like China? Why is America so scared? Yes they have low cost labor…is that what we want? Do we want America to be that country? Do we want America to be the country where you can make a pair of Levi jeans for $4? If so then make sure our students know how to stand in a line, read, and rework numbers.

According to the latest patent stats of 2006 which is the last full year we have stats on:

Applicants from the USA: 390,815 applications

Applicants from China: 128,850 applications

That’s 3 times the patent applications. America needs to understand that it’s place in this new economic flat world is not trying to compete with China but instead being the brains, the thinkers, the creators of the products that China produces. America will never be able to compete with that labor force, but they will be able to compete with their minds, their ideas, their creativity.

That is if there is any creativity left.

This is so interesting….as I can remember at least three different times that I sat down with heads of Chinese schools, people looking to start private Chinese schools, or Chinese school looking to improve their education. I remember sitting and talking about the American system and how we focus on getting students to think different, we encourage them to think, to analyze, to question their findings. We teach them to learn on their own.

There is one man who I remember particularity clearly who wanted to hire me to come help him set up a private school in a province south of Shanghai. He was a wealthy man and he wanted to build a school focused on technology and thinking. His grand daughter lived in this city where he wanted to build the school, because he felt it was the only way she was going to compete.

“She must understand how to think.”
he told me.

So here America is trying to compete with Japan, S. Korea, and the China’s of the world and they are the ones looking at our systems to create thinkers, creators, and inventors.

America can not compete by testing their kids smarter. America will never be able to complete by testing down their kids to the basics.

Screw the basics! We need thinkers!

The issue is (and yes…now I’m on my soap box) that Americans are bombarded by reports of China doing this, and China doing that. China grew by 200% in this and 400% in that. The news is America’s worst enemy. Of course China is on fire. They’ve gone from riding bikes to driving Lamborghinis in about 15 years time! There growth rates should be off the charts and America should be celebrating that they had a part to play in helping the Chinese to open up, to modernize…and now they’re scared of it?

You will not be able to compete in a global soceity if you are scared.

You will not be able to compete in a global soceity if you don’t understand your role as a nation?

You will not be able to compete in a global soceity if you do not educate your younger generations to be globally minded, open to new ideas, and give them the abilty to learn, unlearn, and relearn in a fast pace world.

Trying to compete head on with a nations 4 times your size is a garenteed loosing battle. It’s a typical David and Goliath…America must think smarter, not bigger.

(Stepping off my soap box now and going to bed)

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Well said. You can get on your soapbox anytime…but let’s hope that the people who make change in America are the ones listening. Sadly, they never seem to be.

  2. You write:

    Applicants from the USA: 390,815 applications
    Applicants from China: 128,850 applications
    That’s a 33% difference

    in what universe?

    I agree that there shouldn’t be such an emphasis on basics and on testing, but at the same time, you need to demonstrate a better understanding of basic mathematics than this!

    • Hi Stephen,

      Obviously mathematics is not my strong suite. I should have stated that there were 3 times as many patent applications in the States than in China.

      learn, unlearn, relearn in action

      Thank you for pointing this out and I will change it.


  3. Hey Jeff – this testing preposterous-ness seems to be unstoppable. It is not why any of us went into teaching. I wonder how good teachers have been handling this testing absurdity for the last umpteen years. I have to say that I have exerted tons of energy to sidestep the test, to use tech in the classroom, Internet projects, etc (not to blow my own horn) but to say that to survive as an effective teacher these days, one has to “look like” a testing team member to please administrators, then do all of the real, exciting, stimulating stuff as well, or in spite of a growing testing environment. Now, they’re taking aim at kindergartners in NY (Texas as well). Just had to react…I have a soapbox also. 🙂

  4. No question which topics push your hot buttons!

    We can never forget that America offers its citizens a free and public education irrespective of anything except citizenship.

    We do need to assess, re-assess, and perhaps even over-assess our students while involving them in this process so that they understand the way they think and learn. It seems our greatest mistake right now is thinking that testing tell us what we need to know about students and their learning. What about comparing students to themselves (growth over time) rather than a national or international standard?

    If you’re at all familiar with value added assessments ( http://www.value-addedlearningnetwork.org/documentation.cfm), I’d love to see a similar reports available with just as few clicks when it comes time to re-elect policy makers. Did their term add value to the quality of our lives and the lives of future progeny?

  5. Much of the media on globalization you hear is an oversimplification of the issues. I liked your article because instead of taking the typical “The Sky is Falling Approach” you suggest a proactive approach of changing education to emphasize creating thinking and innovation. It isn’t so much that there won’t be jobs, it’s that the kinds of jobs that will be available in America will and is changing. I am concerned that one of the problems of NCLB is that often schools that are struggling tend to put all of their emphasis on raising test scores which is only a basic literacy of all that will be needed to compete. Meanwhile, schools that already are doing fine on test scores are working to include more 21st Century Learning experiences for their students. I see the gap that NCLB was designed to address widening not decreasing in terms of getting students ready for a new type of workforce. It is my hope that the economic stresses that we are currently facing will serve as levers to change education.

  6. The 65 principals who have “expressed interest” in having the 5 year olds in their care sit for 90 minutes worth of standardized testing should be dismissed and charged with educational malpractice. There’s nothing else you can call this plan.

  7. Kwillsonyshs Reply

    The 65 principals who have “expressed interest” in having the 5 year olds in their care sit for 90 minutes worth of standardized testing should have to be the ones to administer it.

    I agree, we need to encourage creativity and thinking out of the box. We don’t need to be a “cheap labor” provider.

  8. The thought I am having after reading several blogs tonights is that perhaps the dumbing down of America is not elitist left wing teachers attempting to bypass skills and teach concepts, rather it is administrators and politicians who wish to have students spend 8 hours a day answering test questions to prove their knowledge.
    I guess the teacher can pour the knowledge into the back of their skulls with a picture as the students are bent over their desks, number two pencils in hand.

  9. Your personal experience with the gentleman wishing to start a school very different than other Chinese schools says a great deal. It jibes with newspaper articles pointing to Chinese government officials wanting to change their direct instruction, knowledge-focused education system to one like you describe.

    Risk taking and the desire to compete on a world scale puts Asian societies like China in good shape to not only create the widgets but to design them as well.

  10. Pingback: SchoolFinder Blog: Teaching as a Subversive Activity

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