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SC “Dumbed Down” Testing Drama: It’s Harming Your Children

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GOVERNMENT-RUN EDUCATION: DIMINISHED ACCOUNTABILITY, DAMAGED KIDS

|| By FITSNEWS || Years ago, this website exclusively reported on efforts by South Carolina leaders to “dumb down” academic standards for government-run schools.  That’s right … the same bureaucrats who perpetually insist that private and parochial schools lack “accountability” led a successful push to make their own tests easier for students to pass.

At the time, the leading testing authority in the country noted how the “use of the lower standards would result in dramatic increases in the percentages of students meeting standards in South Carolina schools, even with no actual improvement in student performance.”

Turns out he was being optimistic … according to the most recent data, South Carolina’s dumbed down tests are still too hard for students trapped in the state’s government-run academic hellholes.

Sadly, that’s for the course in a state where the only academic “success” stories involve the lowering of bars.

Of course the “dumbed down” standards are only part of the problem.  There’s also the incessant focus (and resources) being sucked away from actual learning in government classrooms – all so students can be drilled repeatedly (and in some cases threatened unfeelingly) in anticipation of schools’ standardized test-taking.

Frankly, it’s past time someone wrote a scathing condemnation of the ridiculously overhyped focus on standardized testing in our public school system – and the damage it’s doing to our children’s academic preparedness (and general well-being).

So … who’s gonna write that condemnation?

According to a former public school administrator who reached out to us this week, apparently we are.

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NIKKI HALEY

NIKKI HALEY

CALLING OUT “LEADERS …”

There’s certainly no shortage of blame … starting with S.C. governor Nikki Haley.  A “conservative,” Haley supported market-based academic reforms as a state lawmaker from 2005-11 – but since becoming governor she has abandoned her school choice views and embraced the status quo.

“I want you to call out our governor,” our ex-administrator said.  “And our newly elected state superintendent of education (Molly Spearman), state lawmakers, and local school board members.  I want you to call them out for their silence in the matter.  I want you to tell them to take a break from posing at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for their pretty new buildings and do something that really matters for children, teachers and parents.”

Preach on, sister … preach on.  We’re with you.  One hundred percent.  In fact we have been calling them out.

According to the ex-administrator – who is now a successful private sector manager – government-run schools’ obsession with standardized testing isn’t just counterproductive, it’s emblematic of a broader, more systemic corruption.

“The tests don’t just dumb down standards,” she said.  “They dumb down learning. Real, authentic teaching and learning is pushed aside for test prep worksheets and packets.”

Why?

“Follow the money,” she suggested.

Ah yes: We forgot that in South Carolina, decisions on “accountability” are made by state lawmakers with a history of serving the interests of wealthy, well-connected insiders – not the needs of children.

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COMMON CORE’S IMPACT … 

The chief culprit of South Carolina’s current testing obsession?  The Common Core-aligned ACT Aspire tests, which are scheduled to be given to tens of thousands of students in government-run schools this spring – in addition to previously dumbed-down Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) tests.

Here’s a brochure for the tests – in which administrators inform parents how the exams will used to determine their child’s “potential.”

And here’s a memo from the S.C. Department of Education (SCDE) warning parents they have no “opt-out” rights when it comes to testing their kids.

“It has come to the attention of the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) that opt-out request forms are circulating around the state giving some parents the belief that they can opt their children out of state and federal testing requirements, among other things,” the memo stated.  “With regard to testing, federal and state laws require that all students be included in South Carolina’s state assessment system.”

But this mandate is just the beginning of the problem …

In addition to instructional time lost to test preparation, government-run schools have gone off the deep end in hyping the exams with students – not to mention loading them up with sugar prior to test time.

"READY TO TEST?"

“READY TO TEST?”

“This morning at my child’s school they are having a PASS testing pep rally,” one Midlands, S.C. mother told FITS.  “The kids with the highest scores are being recognized. ”

“Good use of ‘instructional’ time, don’t you think?” she asked sarcastically.

“It goes on everywhere,” she continued.  “Pep rallies.  Popsicles for PASS.  I’ve seen Mountain Dew shots given before testing.  It’s nuts.”

Indeed … and South Carolina taxpayers are paying for every penny of it.

Of course the expense is just one part of the issue … there’s also the threatening, cajoling and pressuring that accompanies the tests.  One text message obtained by FITS – sent from one parent of children at South Carolina government-run schools to another – highlights the insanity.

“(My child’s) teacher is putting immense pressure on them,” the message read.  “He was sobbing this morning because he’s so afraid he’s going to fail.  He says they told him that if he fails he cannot go to fourth grade and that if his class doesn’t do well they’re going to close the school.”

Crazy … and that’s coming from a third grader, people.

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PERCEPTIONS SHIFTING … 

Things have gotten bad.  So bad that even opponents of expanded parental choice – where accountability is driven by the marketplace, not bureaucratically defined standards – are at their wits’ end.

“There is growing discontent even among some of those who are ardent opponents of choice and free market competition,” the ex-administrator told us.  “Even some of those willing to blindly sacrifice generations of children in support of the status quo are frustrated.  I don’t blame the teachers, or even the administrators. Their hands are tied. And they are only playing by the rules established for them.”

And that’s from the left … on the right, activists who condemn the federal government’s imposition of standards on their children were already up in arms.

According to the ex-administrator, who manages dozens of workers in her corporate position,  “I have never once asked a potential employee what they scored on the PASS test.”

“It’s simple – if they can’t write a decent cover letter, offer a firm handshake, articulate how they approach problem-solving, work with colleagues, demonstrate initiative, they are not hired,” she said.  “I don’t expect ‘content’ knowledge. I’ve forgotten more than I ever knew. I expect them to be able to communicate well, and think.”

Unfortunately, those are the very basic skills being neglected at the expense of government’s “top-down” testing obsession.

“It is one thing for the public schools to not benefit,” she added. “It is an entirely different thing for the public schools to do damage. And with all that pressure applied, all those hoops for students and teachers to jump through, they are failing at preparing a competent workforce.”

That’s for sure …

Everyone knows South Carolina’s government-run school system is a disaster.  And everyone (except Haley and other state leaders) have realized throwing more money at this broken system not the answer.  In fact the liberal S.C. Supreme Court – in its landmark ruling last fall – reached that very conclusion.

“Spending fails to provide students with the opportunity to obtain a minimally adequate education,” the court found. “Rather, the evidence demonstrates that there is a clear disconnect between spending and results.”

That’s what we’ve been saying … for years.

But that’s not stopping our “leaders” from continuing to spend … or continuing to try and force feed “results” at the expense of our children (and our state’s future prosperity).

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