Friday, April 03, 2009


Sad to see the Omaha Public Schools and all other public districts in the Omaha metropolitan area have caved in to the micromanaging rigidity of standardized report cards. In effect, parents will be getting less useful information from report cards, and an even fuzzier picture of how well or how poorly their child is mastering classroom content compared to the students of yesteryear.

Report cards have entered the Brave New World of standardized schooling. Since school curriculum and assessments have been aligned to the nationally standardized education system, it follows that report cards would have to be standardized, too.

Instead of the familiar A-F grading system, or perhaps alongside it to placate parental fears in the early going of this transformation, the child's progress in school is benchmarked to the three levels of performance that are reported on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, pronounced "nape"). Those three levels are basic (below grade level), proficient (at grade level) and advanced (better than grade level).

You'll see slightly different wording in different districts, but essentially, they've aligned their report cards to the national standards-based educational paradigm. Some day soon, "the" nationally standardized test will be the NAEP, and the "grading" system will already be in place.

This is yet another sign that our schools are being transformed into "local education agencies" that are more or less local cookie-cutter franchises of a nationalized education system. The one professional privilege of being a teacher -- assigning a grade -- has been taken away, or rendered virtually meaningless. Parents will be duped into thinking their child is really doing outstanding work when the report card actually means that the child can meet the low-level, baseline, minimum standards set by the government.

It's all about the standards . . . and the standards are all about assuring a future workforce that has a certain level of minimum competencies, rather than giving students a strong motivation to be the best they can be in all academic subjects.

Read more about it in this column from my educational advice website:


What can parents do? It doesn't seem likely that schools will get rid of standards-based education or bring back A-F grading systems since their funding and political systems are so firmly entrenched in the nationalization process.

So once again, if you want your child to be well-educated the way past generations have been, the answer is to homeschool your child or put him or her in private school if you can . . . and if you can't, then "after-school" your child with tutoring, enrichment experiences, and independent learning with good academic content such as making sure he or she has read the 100s of classic children's books that are no longer included in school curricula these days.

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It makes little sense to compare American kids in affluent area school, or kids in inner-city charter and private schools,with the national average, which UNICEF has ranked number 19 in the industrialized world. Where is the challenge for the "advantaged" children? It is more rational to compare kids to their peers, thereby promulgating an ethos of competition, which prevails in the adult world in the U. S.

Parents know what the "antiquated" letter grades mean, but the neo-grades leave most of them lost in epistemological la-la land. Dare we keep alive the dream of classical,transcendent knowledge concerning report cards and in general in the face of the dreadnaught of Big Education ineffaceable extirpating the remaining vestiges of reason in education?

Could charter and private schools, like the Irish monasteries of the Dark Ages, be the repositories of transcendent wisdom about education? Coud we hope that when Big Education has exhausted it's final "initiative" in an interminable series of abject failures, the classical pedagogic verites will emerge triumphant? Keep hope alive!
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