Contradictions of School Reform: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing

By Linda M. McNeil | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

“We’ve Got to Nuke This Educational System”

“We’ve got to drop a bomb on them, we’ve got to nuke them—that’s the way you change these organizations.” 1 When Texas got serious about school reform, no one sat down with Ms. Watts to ask what she needed for her physics lab. No one called in a group of Hispanic students from inner-city Houston to ask how the engineering magnet program was changing their understanding of mathematics or their plans for their future. No one from the legislature spent a week at the gifted-and-talented magnet trying to understand how teachers and students can create a whole school culture that makes learning something everyone works hard on with excitement and diligence. No policy-maker expected teachers or students to provide expertise into what schools needed. No one was looking into schools for answers. After all, schools were the problem. Instead, a businessman was brought in to “fix” things. And to fix it, Ross Perot decided to “nuke” the system.

The state reforms did not start out as a bombing raid, but they did proceed completely independently of anything going on in schools. They were driven from the top, defined as management problems waiting for an expert manager to solve. They were formulated on the assumption that schools are at the bottom of the bureaucracy. If schools are to be improved, then the bureaucratic machinery needs to be running more smoothly. And bureaucratic machinery runs best when strict management controls are in place. If this sounds like a deliberate plan to create schools full of defensive teachers and

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