Friday Freakout: High-Stakes Tests Leading to Chinese Education Model

Our topic of focus today comes to us from the comments section of an Indianapolis Star article called, “Diane Ravitch’s opposition to accountability isn’t realistic.” Check out this impassioned public school teacher’s take:

School choice opponents often say, as Diane Ravitch has, that choice proponents are just “corporate reformers” who aim to push high-stakes tests on public schools that will invariably result in “failing” school labels all in the name of firing teachers and making a buck. After all, why would we highlight a teacher’s comment and call it a freakout if our goal wasn’t to attack public school employees?

That is the reasoning we hear time and again for why people have adopted an anti-school choice mentality. With this post, we hope to set the record straight on the Friedman Foundation’s position on school and teacher accountability.

If you thought we’d say that Sean Watson above is a whiner, you’d be wrong. Sean has every right to be frustrated and, frankly, freaked out by the domino effect high-stakes tests have caused in the classroom. Educators are increasingly told by “experts” that they should be creative and inspire our children to learn and think critically. Yet, in the same breath, teachers are being told their professional survival hinges on whether their students pass tests when, where and how government regulations say they should on curriculum teachers haven’t chosen. No successful industry gets creative solutions and positive results when it puts strait jackets on its employees like that.

We believe the way to improving student outcomes is to give all parents the means to choose a school based on the criteria that will meet the unique needs of their children. Let teachers choose curriculum and allow them to teach it. If parents are happy with their children’s progress, and they stay in a school—and perhaps even attract more kids to enroll—that school is successful. If parents withdraw their children from a school en masse, that school likely has some problems to fix. And as the school’s staff tackles the areas in need of improvement, a bunch of far-removed government officials shouldn’t micromanage their efforts.

In a nutshell, the Friedman Foundation believes teachers and schools—public and private—should have autonomy; the role of tests in a child’s education should be decided by parents in partnership with educators; and accountability should come from parents’ choices.

To learn more about our stance on accountability, read our President and CEO Robert Enlow’s post here. And then there’s always the wise insights from our late founder, Milton Friedman:

Voucher schools do need to be accountable to avoid fraud and misrepresentation. But they need to have the maximum possible freedom with respect to teaching methods, curriculum, and the like. Accountability in that area is best provided by parents by their choice of schools. Customer accountability is how competition produces progress.