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In a recent post I pointed out the absurdity of the California Democratic Party’s criticism of the education reform movement because of its commodification of children. As vulgar and impersonal as it may seem to sensitive, liberal ears, in purely economic and political terms students have always been commodified as a consequence of schools’ function in preparing them for their roles as future workers.
While the ed reformers have succeeded raising the influence of test scores as a measure of students’ worth, this measure preceded the current wave of ed reform, as did others, like grade point averages, participation in honors or advance placement classes, student government and athletics. However, the ed reform movement has succeeded in raising the stakes of test scores to the point that schools are punished when an insufficient percentage of their student body participates. Consequently, tests become not only a way to measure a student’s value to future employers, but a way (albeit imprecise and often inaccurate) to measure schools’ value to taxpayers. Schools that perform poorly or that cannot manage to get sufficient numbers of their students to participate are wasting state resources that could be going toward lowering taxes on the wealthy and their businesses.
Therefore, all children must take the tests, regardless of whether they are ready or willing (or even physically able).
When considered in this light, it should not be surprising that a teacher showed up Cohen Children’s Medical Center to administer a New York State exam to Joey Furlong, a 4th-grader with life threatening epilepsy who was hooked up to machines while awaiting brain surgery, according to Valerie Strauss. Apparently, his family had already made arrangements with his school to make up the exam after he had recovered and was out of the hospital, but this was trumped by a state law requiring schools to provide instruction to children there for more than three days.
In the end, the state of New York conceded that Joey’s medical condition was even higher stakes than its trifling exam and allowed Joey to undergo his medical procedures without having to endure the additional stress of a “high stakes” test. Or, perhaps the authorities believed his test scores would improve without all the machines hooked up to his body.
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