[No Child Left]: What Are
Schools for in a Democratic
In recent years, policymakers have been engaged in a massive and unprecedented social experiment on American schoolchildren. This experiment in public school accountability was launched upon the implausible notion that learning and teaching could be precisely and unambiguously measured with standardized tests, and that such tests would prod children and schools to perform their best. The costs of this experiment have been staggering, not only in terms of the taxpayer outlays to support these new huge testing and accountability bureaucracies, but also in terms of what we lose as a democratic society. What are we giving up as a nation for the sake of this exceedingly narrow definition of school accountability and academic success?
Americans are relinquishing democratic control over their public schools to a new generation of rather cynical politicians and technocrats who have defined education in the most self-serving and narrow of terms. The wizards of the accountability machine have fostered the dubious proposition that technological fixes alone, with more standards, more standardized tests, and harsher sanctions attached to these tests will fuel lasting gains in academic achievement for all children and lead to a more prosperous and productive citizenry.
The grand experiment on American schools and schoolchildren has transformed the very meaning of what it is to be an educated