“You’ve got two empty halves of coconut, and you’re bangin’ ’em together.” – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
I have spent some time recently trying to compose something on the topics of standards based grading and standardized testing in our public schools. The time to shout about these tests, grading systems, and the state of education is nearly here again in Indiana, and yet, perhaps it will be avoided once more. It has been a divisive topic in the media thanks in large part to our state’s political machinations as well as national opinions regarding public education. Even in the midst of our modern Canterbury Tales, there simply doesn’t seem to be anything fresh to report. Oddly this strange condition has not burdened many others who are writing daily on the topic.
I investigated the political opinions being aired and decided they needed to keep hanging on the line. I dug into the past of educational testing, found the research that others freely and selectively borrow from without citing their sources, and gradually came to a surprising conclusion of my own. The debate is always the same.
There are a few points I can be sure of after my recent efforts. No one is changing the dialogue of the debate other than adding the phrase, “in these challenging times.” No one is making significant progress toward meaningful change. And no one who tries to introduce enlightened dialogue into the debate goes unpunished. With that theme in mind, and in honor of the annual race to improve education throughout our great land, please consider what might need to be done if you discover you are riding a dead horse. Oh, and, masks on.
The Official and Expertly Researched Public Education Response
- Upgrade the whip. This is a best practice, and is, therefore, non-negotiable. Upgrade may include reclassification as riding crop.
- Change the rider. This can be achieved easily by revising the by-laws regulating riders.
- Remind everyone that this is the data-driven technique. We always ride dead horses.
- Form a virtual committee to analyze the horse.
- Investigate how other school districts manage their dead horses.
- Rewrite the protocols for proclaiming horses dead.
- Pilot programs, spearhead taskforces, form committees, and poll all stakeholders for the purpose of reviving the dead horse.
- Design workshops, schedule trainings, and lead professional development meetings to instruct in the riding of dead horses with fidelity, and with grace.
- Analyze the data available on dead horses in order to create a meaningful benchmark.
- Hire expensive experts to explain in virtual PDs how best to ride a dead horse.
- Increase the length of the track the horse is on to gain more comprehensive data.
- Reduce the length of the track the horse is on to be compassionate and reasonable.
- Understand that no matter what length the track is, it will still be known as four lengths.
- Convince all stakeholders that completing four lengths is excellent, but not completing four lengths is acceptable as well.
- Declare that progress is being made in the science of dead horse management.
- Overhaul the service requirements for horses.
- Publicize the gains made since the ride made two years ago.
- If no improvements are evident, refer back to response one.
Outstanding educators everywhere, do what you do. I appreciate you. That hollow thumping sound you keep hearing should stop… most likely a bit past November. Until then, carry on.
*Adapted from “Business Wit” ,These Strange German Ways; Susan Stern, Atlantik-Bruecke, 2000