Anthony Cody at Education Week:
The trouble with Groupthink, as Janis points out, is that it can be disastrously wrong. Once we get swept up into this momentum, and more and more of our values and livelihoods hinge on this set of beliefs, it becomes harder and harder to break away. And with this particular set of ideas, we are, as a nation, building a huge technological infrastructure of curriculum, instructional tools, assessments and data systems, based on this absolute diehard belief that test performance will drive learning to new heights. Those of us who have voiced skepticism are called Luddites or worse.
What eventually happens in cases like this is that the systems collapse, because reality will not support the endless optimism of the believers. The bubble always bursts, sooner or later. The NCLB [Obama's No Child Left Behind] testing bubble should have burst several years ago, and probably would have done so had not the billionaire technocrats intervened with the Common Core testing bailout. Now it looks like we are in for a few more years of glorious predictions of the wonderful equitable outcomes the latest and greatest testing technology will deliver, until it doesn't. But in the meantime, our public schools continue to be undermined, and resources continue to be diverted away from classrooms and into the testing/data infrastructure.
From my post last August, Humanistic or Technocratic Education?:
So then, what of technocracy and why is it a problem that should concern us? What are the characteristics of the technocratic mindset that pose such a serious threat to the soulful human? The technocratic mindset feels at home in governmental, corporate, and foundation bureaucracies. It is procedure oriented and lacks practical wisdom or adaptability to the unforseen or the uncontrolable.
Large organizations are hierarchical, and they attract ambitious people who seek to climb to the top. It recruits the best and brightest, but filters out anyone who would challenge its narrowly defined assumptions. The people who succeed in rising into positions of leadership are Hi-IQ, very articulate, and have been promoted precisely because of their aggressiveness and confidence in promoting the technocracy's mission. Their success within the paramaters defined by the technocracy's mission has reinforced their self-perception as the best and the brightest, and this breeds in them a we-know-better arrogance, and so they are too often contemptuous at worst, patronizing at best, of anyone who disagrees with them, especially if they are "soft" humanistic types.
Technocracies as systems are very uncomfortable with what they cannot control or predict. They therefore see the lively, eccentric, and unpredictable as irrelevant or as a problem to be eliminated. It revels in the general, and is allergic to the concrete and particular. It cares about the abstract and quantitative and regards the qualitative as soft, unmeasurable, and thus trivial. As McGilchrist points out, it lives within a rigid template of reality, in its own mirror world, and anything that doesn't fit gets chopped off.
And so technocratic projects are always naively, if not cynically, "data driven". Naive because technocrats don't understand the limitations of the impoverished interpretive framework they use to find meaning in the data, and they don't understand how irrational interests shape their supposedly rational methods. They are cynical when they know their interpretations of the data are arbitrary or manipulated to serve predetermined agendas. While the present themselves as "impatient optimists", they too often develop elaborate and fundamentally wrongheaded, if not delusional, strategies to change the world for the better by some limited metric of their own contrivance, and in doing so too often create even bigger messes than the one they hoped to clean up.
Standardized testing is something that works to meet bureaucrats' needs, not the needs of students and teachers. Teachers are intrinsically motivated. The best among them are exemplars of the kind of people that Dan Pink describes as high-concept, high-touch. What they do best cannot be measured or evaluated by some technocrat's metric. And the technocrats are so obsessed with getting rid of the worst-performing teachers that they are making it impossible for the best teachers to do what they do best.
There's an interesting thing happening in Seattle. Teachers at Garfield High School, with the support of teachers throughout the district, are at long last saying No to standardized testing. And it's been getting some national attention.There's a support rally at the School District HQ this afternoon, and word is CNN is going to be there. This will be interesting to see how it plays out.