A recent article by Susan Sparks posted in Education Week cites research into the unintended consequences of combining Federal accountability standards with increases in state curriculum standards. The article calls out the efforts made to improve the testing performance of the so-called ‘bubble children’ or students who almost passed the tests.
It is the description of a system of ‘educational triage,’ however, that should be most alarming to those concerned with the state of our schools.
The notion of ‘educational triage’ is a particularly disturbing characterization. At least for me, the concept of ‘triage’ carries my mind to visions of overwhelming war zones or emergency rooms where the understaffed medics or doctors are forced to make instant life and death decisions on who can be helped and who cannot.
In the case of any educational system that is struggling because it is under-resourced, this vision of “educational triage’ would have to be profoundly upsetting. The data referred to in this article suggests the following translation: high-performing students will thrive with minimal assistance, students on the margins (“bubble children”) will get a maximum infusion of help to ‘get over the (testing) hump’, and the lowest performing students will be consigned to the educational equivalent of a soldier whose wounds have been judged too severe to address.
Perhaps it has taken the whole accountability, testing and standards movement to bring this gap into focus in a way which demands action. Our schools need to be ‘resourced’ in ways that insure that all children will learn more than what it takes to pass a test. We need our schools to help each of our students build learning skills and habits that will help them achieve their best potentials.
Photo: Ollie T