Anti-testing movement is only the beginning


New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is trying to clarify her position on testing. After some tough words directed at the anti-testing movement a few weeks ago, Elia now says that parents can choose not to have their children tested, but that she hopes to persuade them otherwise.

The softer tone is certainly better than previous threats to cut off school funding. But the anti-testing movement, which shows no signs of easing, is only the tip of iceberg. Education officials in New York and around the state are grappling with growing public skepticism about the true rationale for reforming public education.

“Defies Measurement,” a documentary film by Shannon Puckett, uses the rise and fall of a middle school as a jumping-off point to examine how the No Child Left Behind law spurred the education reform movement – and where the movement has taken education in this country. 

It’s a fascinating film that challenges the real purpose of public education, what it means to a democracy, and what we know about how children learn.

Is the purpose of public education factual recall to answer a multiple-choice question or unrestricted thinking about the question itself?

Is intelligence something that is fixed like crooked teeth or are there multiple forms of intelligence, and are we overly focused on an extremely narrow definition? 

It will be interesting to see how strong the anti-testing movement is this year. If nothing else, the movement is finally bringing state education officials to the table to listen more seriously to what parents and teachers expect from policy makers.