My further response to a defense of standardized testing:
I would agree that there should be some standards for teaching and learning. But those standards should be put together by teachers and teacher educators, not by a committee of people who have never taught and who are on the payroll of big corporations. And I also think there should be higher standards for those seeking to enter the teaching profession, NOT lower standards as is being pushed by Teach For America. Teaching is a profession like many others, and requires quite a bit of training and practice to get good at. The current trend is to micromanage teachers by giving them scripted lessons to follow — lessons written by low-paid non-teachers — and to make sure that each teacher follows the same sequence of lessons on the same date. I am not making this up. It’s demoralizing to teachers and makes for extremely boring lessons for the students, as I can attest.
Having gone to school part of my career in the US and part of the time overseas, and having spent some time looking at math textbooks from Bulgaria to Russia to China to Japan and Singapore, as well as inspected a lot of different US-published math books, I can assure you that no one approach to math pedagogy has all the answers. Most of them have some good aspects (even Saxon Math has a good point or two!), and they are all quite different.
What we are doing in the US is utterly unprecedented anywhere in the world. No other country has ever turned over enormous portions of the education of its poorest citizens over to private corporations with no oversight. No other country has ever measured educational progress by requiring students in grades K-12 to spend about half of their school year preparing for truly stupid ‘standardized’ multiple-choice tests the way the US has done. No other country has decided to micromanage its teaching profession by assuming that they are all going to be temporary teachers who are not going to stick around long enough to build up a repertory of good lessons in their subject matter. No other country that I know of has decided to blame all of the social ills of the nation squarely on the public teaching staff of the nation, and then removed all supports from those teachers (requiring them to keep discipline without backing them up in any way in case of problems). No other nation has ever turned over its educational system over to a couple of large corporations the way that the US is doing (Pearson and ETS/College Board).
Let me add this: all of these educational “reforms” now have a track record. And it’s not a good one, as I and many other bloggers have shown. That track record is one that has been studiously avoided by the mainstream media, which continues to bash teachers and promote the hair-brained educational schemes cooked up by billionaires and their various minions.