you're reading...
Education in the Media

What Kind of Reform is This?

Tell me I am missing something here. Tell me this is satire and I am just taking it too seriously. Please, please, tell me this is not a serious argument for a virtue of standardized testing.

Todd Farley on the Huffington Post writes “I am a reformer! Here me roar.” after stating that he is in support of standardized testing because it creates jobs. His job and many others. Jobs for anyone wanting one it seems, whether fired from another company or just someone walking off the street. Jobs to write tests and to score them. Of course, we know that this is why testing is lobbied for so intently by corporations. Because it means more money for them.

Meanwhile teachers are being let go by the thousands, class sizes are swelling, and kids continue to be the losers of the school system every day.

Perhaps what’s even more concerning than whether Mr. Farley is being facetious or not, is that no one commenting on the article seems to care. Commenters launch right into their already formed stances on the issue. Few if any even refer back to the article’s contents. It’s as if they only noticed that it was an article about school reform and then started in without even knowing what exactly the conversation was about. There’s plenty of finger-pointing and little solution-offerring.

But that’s why we keep up the Co-op, because we know a different way of having the conversation needs to be had.

With hope that this is all just a joke,



About Adam Burk

Adam aims to serve the greater good; alleviate unnecessary suffering; and create beautiful, sane human communities in concert with the living planet. Recently, he has helped to rebuild local food systems in Maine in large part through school food services, organized the TEDxDirigo conference, and is a digital organizer with the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA).


9 thoughts on “What Kind of Reform is This?

  1. I definitely think it is a joke. He’s being sarcastic. His whole “if you even drove past a school” you can get a job scoring or writing tests is a considerable leveling of the quality of the industry. It’s the emperor has no clothes moment.

    I just hope I’m not wrong.


    Posted by Jason Flom | December 19, 2010, 3:02 pm
  2. Adam, having read Farley’s book, I don’t quite read this as satire. I think it’s pure cynicism. Here is a place where people can make money easily while money is hard to make. If the schools are doing it, why shouldn’t we? Testing is a growth industry, and it will become easier and easier to cut costs, increase profits, and spin off sub-contracts to share the wealth thanks to Common Core and the interoperable future of standardized assessment.

    I hope to have something concrete to offer as a solution within a year or two. In the meantime, maybe the HuffPo can start sponsoring our work.

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | December 19, 2010, 10:51 pm
  3. Thank you for pointing out that article. I think you’re right: Farley focuses on the fact that standardized testing is a growing industry, while avoiding any discussion of the merits and demerits of standardized testing itself. I think his affect is somewhere between bemused and resigned.

    What models would you recommend to understand realms of learning and the best ways to support and evaluate them? I am a self-directed learner myself, and I image that there is a role for using standardized testing for certain types of skills.

    What framework might help me better understand when such testing is inappropriately applied to learning assessment. Is the issue related to the the fallacy of mixing up the quantitative and qualitative, the intrinsic and the externally validated? If so, how might one sort them out?

    (I appreciate the support this community provides during my own learning curve!)

    Posted by Jay Collier | December 20, 2010, 10:47 am
    • Jay,
      Thanks for joining in these conversations. I’m enjoying your comments and you’re giving me something–many things– to think about. Want to check out the join the coop page?


      Posted by Paula White | December 20, 2010, 12:22 pm
      • Thank you, Paula. I will.

        Posted by Jay Collier | December 20, 2010, 12:25 pm
      • Paula (et. al.)-

        A follow-up. I just read the Pledge to Students and Learning more closely and I have a question.

        I am struggling with concept right now:

        “I will not employ methods which replace this intrinsic motivation with external gauges such as praise, gold stars, or grades.”

        Intuitively, it seems to me as if there are, indeed, times where extrinsic motivation is quite appropriate in learning and life. Paying attention to the feedback of others can be a prosocial motivation. I understand the intent of finding balance, but to throw out all external guages … ?

        In other words, I don’t see intrinsic and external motivation as a dichotomy, so that phrase doesn’t ring true to me.

        Have there been any conversations on this topic?

        Posted by Jay Collier | December 20, 2010, 12:34 pm
        • Hi, Jay – thanks for the great prompt. I think of it like this:

          Giving feedback – information about how to begin or revise a process or product that a student values – is different than giving or withholding a token. I want to make sure that I am helping students learn something they value, rather than trying to make them value what I or the state says matters through punishment and reward. I try to coach more than coerce. I struggle with my own complicity in grading – I have not found the time to go grade-less this year as I had hoped (I owe Joe a post on this, I’m sure).

          External feedback that helps move intrinsically valued student-directed work forward is different in my mind than external coercion that “helps” move extrinsically valued teacher-directed work forward. The where-do-you-start conversation is a big one, but between the Coop members and our work, I think we have shared models of how student-directed work can look at every level.

          I’m looking forward to more conversations with you, Jay – thanks for sharing your time and insights with us!

          All the best,

          Posted by Chad Sansing | December 21, 2010, 6:12 am
  4. Adam, I think we’re supposed to laugh our incompetent asses right off to the testing center.

    Posted by Kirsten | December 20, 2010, 3:59 pm


  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention You are not a Reformer! « Cooperative Catalyst -- - December 19, 2010

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,102 other followers

Comments are subject to moderation.

%d bloggers like this: